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American Reformers Series 


The Scholar in Politics 


Author of "William Lloyd Garrison/* etc. 



Copyright, 1392, d y 
[Printed in the United States of A merica] 


To my dear child, Angelina, whose long and 
painful illness occupied so much of my thoughts 
during the composition of these pages, this record 
of a noble life is lovingly dedicated. 


In the two volumes assigned to him in the Ameri- 
can Reformer Series, viz., the " Life of William Lloyd 
Garrison, the Abolitionist," and that of "Charles 
Sumner, the Scholar in Politics," the Author has 
tried to give a comprehensive view of the forces, moral 
and political, which combined to achieve the downfall 
of slavery and the slave-power in the United States. 

In the " Life of Garrison " his pages are mainly con- 
cerned with the moral aspect of the great struggle, 
while in the " Life of Sumner " the political side of the 
contest has chiefly occupied his attention. Garrison, 
more than any other man, embodied the moral forces 
of the conflict, the story of his life being essen- 
tially the history of the moral uprising against Slav- 
ery; while on the other hand Sumner was the imper- 
sonation of the political movement against the giant 
evil of the country. 

Between these two volumes the Author hopes that 
he has measurably succeeded in conveying a tolerably 
comprehensive and vivid impression of that grandest 
chapter which America has yet contributed to the 
universal history of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. 
The period covered by the irrepressible conflict is, 
to his way of thinking, preeminently the moral age 
of the Republic; and to his mind Garrison and Sum- 


ner, with Wendell Phillips, constitute the three prin- 
cipal figures and actors, the elect and glorified spirits 
and leaders in that mighty battle of Right and Wrong. 

As this volume takes its place in the series, the 
earnest wish of the Author goes with it that the great 
example herein contained, of renunciation of self for 
fellow-men, of absolute devotion to duty, of incessant 
and uncompromising support of heaven-born ideas 
and principles, and of magnificent labors in the cause 
of a common humanity, without distinction of race, 
color, or condition, may be to many a savor of life 
unto life to the end that America, like the Divine 
Parent, shall have no respect to the persons of her 
children whether they be black or white, but shall 
treat all as equals throughout her broad lands, and 
before the genius of her laws. 

Hyde Park, Mass., 

December 30, 1891. 


Preface v-vi 


Ancestry and Antecedents 9-26 


Preparation and Progress 27-56 


Hercules in the Nemean Forest 57-92 


Period of Labor Begins 93-118 


Hercules Tests the Temper of His Weapons 1 19-145 


The Lernaean Hydra 146-161 


The Long Battle Begins 162-186 


The Conflict Thickens 187-213 




Defender of Humanity 214-244 


Struggling for the Floor 245-259 


Black Spirits and White 260-300 


Red Spirits and Grey 301-330 


Cathago est Delenda 33 l -3^>3 


Reconstruction and Colored Suffrage 364-391 


Character and Closing Years 392-404 




Charles Sumner was born in the West End of 
Boston, January 6, 181 1. The founder of the American 
branch of the family, William Sumner, emigrated 
from England with his wife, Mary, and three sons, 
about the year 1635, anc * settled in Dorchester, in the 
Colony of Massachusets Bay. There and in Milton 
the Sumners, during the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries, made farming pay, turning out of the 
stony soil golden crops in more senses than one. For, 
while they increased their acres and builded new 
barns, they also laid up for their children goodly 
shares of virtue and intelligence. These goodly shares 
in the family bank of character and ability yielded 
every now and then an extra dividend in the shape of 
a Sumner of unusual force and distinction in society 
and the State. 

One of these extra dividends upon the moral 
capital of the family was Job Sumner, the grand- 
father of our hero. A rather remarkable man, with 
a somewhat remarkable career, was Job Sumner. 



He was a freshman at Harvard University when the 
Battle of Lexington was fought. The emergency, he 
perceived, demanded soldiers not scholars then, and 
boy though he was, and thirsting for knowledge, he 
promptly determined to meet the demand of the hour 
by making himself into a soldier.. Accordingly, a few 
weeks later the young collegian forsook his studies 
and joined the American Army at Cambridge, subse- 
quently commanded by Washington. That Job Sum- 
ner had in him the stuff of which soldiers are made is 
shown by the fact of his entering the Continental ser- 
vice as an ensign, and of his being mustered out as a 
major at the close of the war for independence. 

Besides his military capacity, Major Sumner was 
also a man of affairs, and attained under the Con- 
federation distinction as a civilian. In 1785, Congress 
entrusted him with a commission to adjust the ac- 
counts between the Confederation and Georgia. 
This business carried him South, where he resided 
during the last years of his life. These last years 
were spent by him, therefore, in the very heart of the 
slave system. The precise attitude of the man, 
during this time, toward the slave system cannot now 
be positively known. But that it was not a hostile one 
may reasonably be inferred from his long residence 
in Georgia, and from his undoubted popularity in the 
aristocratic circles there — a thing uite unlikely to 
occur were he at all suspected of being opposed to 
slavery. Indeed, this popularity of the commissioner 
was of so marked a character that there ran a tradi- 
tion that shortly before his death he was the recipient 
of a very large vote in the legislature for the governor- 
ship of the State. But whether this last is fact or fancy. 


I I 

so much may be set down as morally certain that 
Major Sumner's status in Georgia was the status of a 
friend of the master, not of the slave. He was not a 
man to look on the darker side of life in general or of 
Southern life in particular. He had no touch of the 
Puritan in his constitution, but was of a gay and 
social temper, a lover of music and hunting songs, 
with a strain of the cavalier instead in his disposi- 
tion. Upon such an one the barbarism of slavery 
was not likely to produce any strong impression. On 
the contrary, upon him the power, the leisure, the 
outdoor sports, the stately manners, the lordly hos- 
pitality and the baronial splendor of the masters were 
calculated to exert an attraction amounting almost 
to fascination. All this magnificence was quite 
enough to dazzle and blind the moral vision of a 
mere man of the world, as was Major Sumner, to the 
other and uglier aspects of the question, to those 
social enormities which lay at the centre of the slave 
system and which made of it the "sum of all villainies." 

Job Sumner never lost his thirst for knowledge. 
He was a lifelong lover of good books and a reader 
of them also. His appetite for learning reappeared 
in his son, and drank deep of the Pierian Spring in 
the scholarship of his illustrious grandson. " Elo- 
quence and manners " were the two principle points 
which he set up in the education of his heir. They 
with " wisdom and the languages " seemed to him 
to be " the grand pillars of all great objects and great 
men." If he failed in respect of their acquire- 
ments in his own life, he meant to succeed, if possible, 
in respect of them in the life of his child. The am- 
bition of the father for excellence and distinction 



descended with the paternal estate to the son, Charles 
Pinckney, whose name bears witness to the Southern 
slant of Job Sumner's early political inclination and 

The father of Charles Sumner was of another mould 
than the grandfather. Life did not run merrily with 
him. He was in truth a reversion to the stern and 
sombre type of the Puritan. The love of books, the 
scholarly tastes, the ambition for excellence and dis- 
tinction he inherited from Major Sumner, and he 
bettered his inheritance. Fortune favored the son in 
this regard as it did not favor the father. For 
Charles Pinckney Sumner received the education of 
a gentleman. He graduated from Harvard College 
in the class of 1796. Subsequently he studied law, 
and began its practice in the office of Josiah Quincy, 
in Boston, about 1799. But, although a learned 
lawyer, he did not succeed in building up a lucrative 
business. His practice was in fact quite insignificant, 
altogether inadequate to the support and education 
of an increasing family. For, notwithstanding the 
gloomy and unsocial character of the young attorney, 
he was evidently of the general opinion of mankind 
that it is not well for man to live alone. And so, in 
pursuance of this sentiment, he wooed Relief Jacob, 
of Hanover, and wedded her April 25, 1810. She 
supplemented the deficiencies of the husband in all 
respects where these with another sort of wife 
might have affected disastrously the happiness 
of the family. She was a woman of sterling good 
sense, of splendid physical health, of an equable and 
a cheerful temper. She made a model mother to the 
children of Charles Pinckney Sumner. 



Children came promptly to the pair. Nine months 
after their marriage the young wife was delivered of 
twins — a boy and a girl. The boy was he who is the 
subject of this book. At the end of ten years there 
was a family of four boys and two girls. With an 
increasing family of children there fell upon their 
bread-winner increasing cares. The wherewithal to 
fill so many mouths, both of the mind and of the 
body, became a problem doubtless of no little per- 
plexity and difficulty to the father. His practice of 
the law proving unequal to the exigency, Mr. Sumner 
abandoned it in 1819, after the arrival of the fifth 
mouth, and before the advent of the sixth, and ac- 
cepted the office of a deputy sheriff for Suffolk 
County, from which he derived an income of some- 
thing less than a thousand dollars a year. Now, 
small as is this amount, it was certain, and in all mat- 
ters, touching the support of a poor man's family, a 
bird in hand is worth two in the bush. The condi- 
tion of the Sumner family was distinctly bettered by 
this change. The two ends began then to meet much 
more easily and comfortably, thanks always to the 
housewifely management and thrift of the mother. 

The tide of fortune, which had made so feeble a 
beginning for the Sumner family, flooded in 1825 
when the ex-attorney at law received the appoint- 
ment of high sheriff for Suffolk County. There was 
from that time a decided access of the circulating 
medium in that household. Mr. Sumner's annual 
income from this source more than doubled, and dur- 
ing some years more than trebled the amount of the 
receipts from the office of deputy sheriff. The con- 
tracted circumstances of the family gave place to 



ampler living and prospects. Directly after his pro- 
motion to the shrievalty, Mr. Sumner moved his 
family from the small frame-house, where eight of his 
nine children were born, and which was then stand- 
ing on the southeast corner of what to-day are 
known as Revere and Irving streets, then May and 
Buttolph, to the more commodious dwelling, number 
sixty-three Hancock street, as the numbers now run. 
Five years later, in 1830, Mr. Sumner's improved cir- 
cumstances enabled him to purchase number twenty 
on the same street as a homestead, which was so oc- 
cupied thereafter until the death of his widow in 
1866. The augmented resources of the father bore 
other fruits, indicative of his increased official and 
social importance in the city. Twice a year he en- 
tertained at dinner the judges, members of the bar, 
and other distinguished gentlemen. But perhaps 
the most considerable result, which the favorable turn 
in the father's affairs produced, was the sending to 
Harvard of his eldest son. For that event exercised 
no slight influence in the elevation of the Sumner 
name and character to the national regard and re- 
nown, to which they subsequently attained in the life 
and labors of that selfsame eldest son. 

Mr. Sumner occupied the post of sheriff for a period 
of nearly fourteen years, until in fact within two 
weeks of his death on April 24, 1839. The Sumner 
courage, independence, and devotion to duty, which 
developed to such magnificent proportions in the son, 
the father possessed to a marked degree. Where duty 
called him no danger, however stern, was able to deter 
him from appearing. This trait of the man found 
striking illustration in 1837 when on the occasion of 



a riot in Broad street he read amid a shower of mis- 
siles the Riot Act to the rioters. At the time of the 
Broadcloth mob which drew Garrison through the 
streets of Boston his courage and devotion to duty- 
were put to the severest test in the strenuous resistance 
which he as sheriff offered to that pro-slavery mob 
of gentlemen of property and standing in the com- 
munity. But not once did he flinch in that emergency, 
but stood stoutly for law and order on that memor- 
able October afternoon in 1835, throwing himself and 
his deputies intrepidly between the murderous rioters 
and their object, and earning thereby the publicly ex- 
pressed thanks of the great Abolitionist whom he so 
bravely protected. 

An incident in the summer of 1836 evinced the 
manly stuff of which his independence was made. 
There had been an attempt to return two female 
fugitive slaves under the Act of 1793 in the Supreme 
Judicial Court of Massachusetts. On account of some 
technical defect in the proceedings Chief Justice 
Shaw was of opinion that there was not sufficient 
authority to hold the women, and so remarked in a 
judicial aside, which being caught by Samuel E. 
Sewall who was acting as counse.1 for the fugitives, 
was quickly communicated by him to their friends of 
which there were not a few in the court-room at the 
moment. Whereupon the women were suddenly 
spirited out of the room and the clutches of the slave- 
catchers. Of course the baffled slave-catchers were 
enraged ; so also were their sympathisers in Boston. 
Such a miscarriage of pro-slavery justice in 1836 was 
a rank offense in the nostrils of those gentlemen of 
property and standing, who not one year before had 



overturned law and order in the city for the sake of 
putting Abolition down. They were now, however, 
terribly scandalized by the rampant lawlessness of the 
two wretched women and their friends in evading 
the execution of a statute on which depended the peace 
and stability of the Union. Great failures, or little 
ones for that matter, require a scapegoat, a victim 
of some kind, on whose head all blame for them 
may be laid. Sheriff Sumner was in this case selected 
as the victim, and on his head was charged the respons- 
ibility for the escape. Had he not absented himself 
at the time from the particular room in the court- 
house where the fugitives were under examination ; 
had he provided an adequate force in anticipation of 
a rescue — well the dignity of the law would have been 
sustained, and the property of the dear South faith- 
fully returned under the Constitution. He was besides 
accused of having expressed to Samuel E. Sewall 
sympathy with the women, to which he thus boldly 
replied: " Whether I addressed Mr. Sewall, as it is said, 
I cannot tell; but I should be ashamed of myself if I 
did not wish that every person claimed as a slave 
might be proved to be a free man, which is the purport 
of the words attributed to me." And again at another 
time he wrote: " It seems to me as if there were some 
persons in Boston who would have been gratified to see 
those women (after being liberated from one unlaw- 
ful detention) seized in the court-house, in the pres- 
ence of the judge, and confined till proof could be 
sent for to Baltimore, and from thence to be sent to 
Boston, to make them slaves. I hope the walls of a 
Massachusetts court-house will never witness such a 



The pro-slavery tide of the city ran so strongly 
against the sheriff in consequence of his alleged re- 
sponsibility for the escape of the two women, that 
Mr. Sumner tendered to Edward Everett, who was 
then Governor of the State, the resignation of his 
office. But it is to the credit of the eloquent dough- 
face executive that he did not sacrifice the brave old 
man to the pro-slavery clamor of his constituents. 
The love of liberty of Charles Sumner's father cropped 
out prominently in this episode of the slave women. 
But more than forty years before, when he was a 
senior at Harvard College, it cropped out in a poem 
no less distinctly. 

" No sanctioned slavery Afric's sons degrade, 
But equal rights shall equal earth pervade," 

sang the young disciple of democracy. He was, in- 
deed, thorougly anti-slavery, seasoned, so to speak, 
in the grain and fibre of him, with a love of freedom 
and equality. At a time when the prejudice against 
color was universal, and most barbarous and atro- 
cious, he seemed singularly devoid of all taint of its 
inhumanity. To the colored people whom he met on 
the streets of the city, as it was with the white people, 
he was no respecter of persons, returning salutation 
for salutation in his stiff, ceremonious manner. He 
opposed the spirit of caste, was entirely willing to oc- 
cupy a seat on the bench by the side of a negro 
judge, was opposed to the exclusion of colored chil- 
dren from the public schools of the city, also to the 
statutory prohibition of the intermarriage of the blacks 
and the whites. He was particularly pronounced 
against the lawless demonstrations in the North to- 



ward the Abolition movement. He was, in fine, a man 
who was immovably anchored to liberty, to law, and 
order. As early as 1820, he entertained startlingly 
bold views in regard to the conflict between freedom 
and slavery in the Union. "Our children's heads," 
he was once heard to say, " will some day be broken 
on a cannon-ball on this question." Little dreamed 
he at the time that the head of his nine-year-old boy 
would be broken among the first of the heads of the 
then rising generation, which he foresaw were destined 
to so tragic a fate. His Puritanic abhorrence of vice 
led him as early as 1830 to take public and advanced 
ground in favor of temperance, and for the divorce of 
the State from the Rum Power. During his student- 
years at Harvard he eagerly anticipated the time 
"when futile war shall cease thro' every clime." 
Take what we already know of him in connection 
with the laboriousness and thoroughness with which 
he pursued knowledge, and does it not seem that 
Charles Pinckney Sumner was designed by nature for 
a part greater than the one played by him in society 
and the State? The design was defeated by some 
defect of character, or environment, or possibly of 
both. But nature in this instance was but tempo- 
rarily balked of her purpose. For what was wanting 
in the sire she mixed with no niggard hand into the 
mental and moral qualities of the son, who bore not 
the whole, but a part only of the father's name, as if 
to mark a difference which controls character and 

Charles's childhood was not unlike that of a hun- 
dred other boys of his class in Boston during the 
same period. He first attended a private school, and 



afterward the famous Latin School of the city where 
he was not especially distinguished above his mates 
as an apt scholar. Indeed, his average standing was, 
perhaps, not much, if any, above mediocrity during 
the five years of his attendance upon this school. 
He was weak in mathematics, but strong in the Latin 
and Greek classics, particularly in the former, which 
is evinced by the number of prizes which he won for 
translations from that language into English in the 
years 1824 and 1826. If he was not among the first 
of his class in the prescribed studies, he was consid- 
erably in advance of the foremost in the knowledge 
which comes from general reading, especially in the 
departments of history and English literature. His 
appetite in respect of these subjects was precocious 
and enormous. Like Edmund Burke he had his 
furor historicus, which comprehended the study of 
geography as well. This and his passion for Belles 
Lettres lasted him through life. But, unlike Burke, he 
took not to mathematical subjects, nor to those of 
logic or metaphysics, which seemed to indicate thus 
early a lack of versatility and symmetry of faculties. 
His knowledge of books in general, and of history in 
particular, was the wonder of his mates. The water- 
shed of his mind, so to speak, if wanting in the di- 
rection of the exact sciences and of speculative studies, 
was of amplitudinous proportions toward the quarter 
where lie the humanities. Metaphorically, the winds 
were always blowing and the floods ever descending 
along this slant into his mind. The boy proved the 
father of the man in this regard, and in other regards 
as well. 

Quite early he developed a remarkable capacity 



for sustained labor along lines of his own choosing. 
If he attacked a book of history he went at it with an 
earnestness and a thoroughness which left no page 
unappropriated, no place unlocated on the maps 
spread out before him. Even when a mere slip of a 
boy he did nothing by halves. The pursuit of knowl- 
edge was even then a delight, and to be thorough a 
necessity of his nature. There was nothing inter- 
mittent and gusty in his energy and industry. Con- 
stancy was an attribute of the boy as it was later of 
the man. In truth, this precocious capacity for sus- 
tained labor, together with the thoroughness and 
constancy with which the boy pursued a given sub- 
ject, were, as we look back over those early years, 
nor more nor less than the obscure dawn of the man's 
future noon. 

The boy possessed a natural disinclination to the 
games of childhood. There was an infinite amount 
of study in him but precious little sport. This was 
at once his strength and his weakness. For, while it 
served to place him en rapport with great men and 
their ideas and deeds, it operated also to exclude 
him too much and too early from the real, the actual, 
in our work-a-day world. In this isolated state 
knowledge from a hundred sources in the world of 
letters streamed into his mind, but altogether too 
little found its way there directly from that vast 
reservoir of all knowledge — life itself. His playfellows 
he sought in the realm of fancy and genius. With 
them he found himself in touch. This idiosyncrasy 
of the boy left its limitations upon the man. The 
boy had no capacity for play, the man none for 
humor. A certain versatility and spontaneity of 



thought and feeling, accordingly, he always lacked. 
And, lacking them, he failed to reach the highest rank 
in eloquence, either popular or parliamentary. 

At the age of fifteen he entered Harvard College. 
This was not, however, the original object of his 
desire which was for a military education. This wish 
of the boy was seconded by his father who en- 
deavored to find an opening for him into the National 
Academy at West Point. The ill success of these 
endeavors, together with the favorable turn which 
the affairs of Mr. Sumner took, through his appoint- 
ment to the Suffolk shrievalty, probably determined 
him to give Charles a liberal education. And so, ot 
course, he was sent to the College at Cambridge. 
Here the youth grew in mental stature but away 
from the curriculum standard and toward the innate 
forces and biases of his mind. His inaptitude for 
metaphysical studies was palpable,and in mathematics 
he was a flat failure. For himself, and as regards 
any comprehension of those subjects, they were 
" Mathematics piled on mathematics ! Metaphysics 
murdered and mangled ! " during the entire four 
years of the course. To this circumstance was un- 
doubtedly due the fact that in rank he stood well 
down toward the middle of his class. In a class of 
forty-eight he was not among the sixteen who were 
elected into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. 

Notwithstanding this failure of young Sumner to 
take high rank in his class, his industry along lines of 
general knowledge was extraordinary. The qualities 
which we have already noted as belonging to him, 
his capacity for sustained labor, his thoroughness 
and constancy, as also his indisposition to mingle 



with his mates in their sports and pastimes, received 
during these years the most emphatic demonstra- 
tion and development. His joy was in exploring a 
library or delving into works of history and general 
literature. In his chosen field he was probably with- 
out a peer among his fellows. His indefatigable and 
prodigious industry made marvel for youths not of 
his class. Wendell Phillips, who was in the class 
just below him, used to recall how, when he and 
others of the students were wont to return from Boston 
in the small hours of the morning, and to make those 
hours jocund with song and merriment, they would 
see the solitary light burning in Sumner's window, 
and would know by that sign that the young 
scholar was still poring indefatigably over his 
books. In his senior year, he won the second 
Bowdoin prize of thirty dollars, taking for his theme 
"The Present Character of the Inhabitants of New 
England, as Resulting from the Civil, Literary, and 
Religious Institutions of the First Settlers," in whose 
composition his wide reading must have stood him in 
good stead. Other qualities than those already 
remarked upon began during his four years at 
Harvard to disclose themselves saliently in his 
fast-forming character. One of these was a con- 
stitutional inability to abandon a position when 
once it was taken. The elements were so mingled 
in him of Saxon phlegm and Puritan seriousness as 
to interpose an almost insurmountable barrier to 
changes of opinion. One of his classmates recorded 
years afterward that " Sumner was not in the habit 
of changing his opinions or purposes. He adhered 
to them as long as he could. If he had an idea that 


A and B stood the highest of any in the class, nothing 
could change his opinion, except their having the 
third or fourth part at the commencement." There 
went along with this mental immovability or inertia 
a certain dogmatism and finality of action. He was 
thus strongly held to an original bent or belief. 
Where, metaphorically, he sat down, it was safe to say 
that there he would ever afterward be found. 

That enlargement of the ego, which seems to be 
an indispensable ingredient in the constitution of 
powerful personalities, kept pace from this period with 
the growth of the youth. Whatever else our young 
collegian may have lacked from the hand of Nature, 
he was assuredly not deficient in self-confidence 
and self-esteem. Humility was not one of his cardi- 
nal virtues. On the contrary, an unconcealed pride, 
of self and consciousness of power formed the basii 
of his character. Here, in a sense, in later years re- 
sided the man's centre of gravity. 

There are other characteristics which were found 
in the youth, which later were found in the man. 
There was no mystery as to how he should be classified. 
He was always and distinctly of the vertebrated breed 
of men. Man's crowning quality he possessed beyond 
the ordinary lot, ability to stand mentally and mon 
ally erect and alone. Strong was the Saxon passion 
for personal liberty in his veins. While a student, he 
dared to disregard a college regulation which in- 
fringed his individual right to determine the exact 
color of his waistcoat. He was admonished that a 
buff-colored waistcoat was not white, but Sumner 
contended that it was " white, or nearly enough so to 
comply with the rule." His insistence and persistence, 

2 4 


it is said, finally carried the point, and he continued 
to wear the waistcoat of his choice, the admonitions 
to the contrary notwithstanding. It was a case of 
color blindness with a vengeance. Sumner refused 
then to distinguish buff from white, as he refused 
subsequently to distinguish black from the self- 
same hue. 

His will even then had the character of adamant. 
A resolution once formed by him was, humanly speak- 
ing, as sure of execution as that day would follow 
night. " If he appointed a certain evening to go into 
Boston," a classmate records, " he would go even in a 
violent snow-storm." And to go into Boston from 
Harvard square in those days under the circumstan- 
ces, and before the age of horse-cars, on one's own 
two legs, was an altogether formidable achievement. 
Between a fixed purpose and its end he allowed no 
difficulties to daunt or deter him. The youth's will 
was dictator. If it said do this, it was done; go 
there, there he went. This received signal illustra- 
tion the year after his graduation when he devoted 
himself to making up his deficiencies in a branch of 
knowledge for which he had literally no taste or talent. 
But by sheer strength of will he compelled himself to 
wrestle with the roots of algebra and the problems 
of geometry until Jacob-like he had wrested from 
them the blessing which comes from earnest struggle 
and self-sacrifice. He never became proficient in 
either, but the trial added, without doubt, to the 
muscularity of his faculties, moral and intellectual. 

Although impatient of the narrowness and intoler- 
ance of the Puritans, he was, nevertheless, a true son 
of them in respect of the supremacy of the moral 



sense. Their severe, uncompromising standard in 
matters of morality was his own. Right, duty, con- 
science, were from childhood with him not mere fine 
words but supreme realities. They could hardly be 
otherwise in the case of any child of Sheriff Sumner. 

We are struck with other traits in studying the youth 
and early manhood of Charles Sumner, and they are 
his sociability and his sympathy. As a youth he was 
full of geniality, most companionable, notwithstand- 
ing his sedentary habits and devotion to books. He 
made friends — many and lasting were his friendships. 
He gave himself, the best in him, in large and over- 
flowing helpfulness. Whether the object was a dying 
teacher, or a struggling scholar it made no difference. 
There gushed for all a like fullness and richness of 
friendly service. Ever ready he was to thrust his 
neck under some new yoke, to offer his back to some 
fresh burden, for friendship's sake. The possessor of 
sympathies, at once sensitive and virile, must needs 
exercise them ~s the seller of perfumes must needs 
scatter as he goes the fragrance of his wares. These 
traits when coupled with the force of conscience which 
was strong within him, pointed with no uncertainty to 
a life of usefulness, if not to a career of greatness. 

Sumner was fortunate in his environment. The 
intellectual life of Boston sixty years ago was full of 
those notabilities and energies of the pulpit, the bar, 
politics, and scholarship, which have so often illus- 
trated the city. Webster, then in the zenith of his 
fame and genius as statesman, orator, and jurist, was 
a familiar figure on its streets, a familiar voice in its 
courts, and on its platforms. Several times had 
Sumner heard him in the old town. And once, indeed, 



the great man, as the president of the " Boston Soci- 
ety for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge," had 
taken the young scholar by the hand, and assured 
him that " the public held a pledge of him." This 
was on the occasion of an essay of Sumner's on com- 
merce taking the prize of that society on the evening 
of April i, 1831. 

There were besides in politics such leaders as John 
Quincy Adams and Harrison Gray Otis, at the bar 
such lights as Rufus Choate and Franklin Dexter, in 
the pulpit such orators as John Pierpont and Lyman 
Beecher, while that remarkable man, Josiah Quincy, 
was at the head of the scholarship of the old town as 
the president of the famous seat of learning just across 
the river. The atmosphere was full of literary and 
professional stimulus and ferment, charged, so to 
speak, with those fine potencies and activities which 
generate in communities great ambitions and aspir- 
ations, which create irrepressible desires and striv- 
ings for excellence and distinction through the whole 
human lump. 

Thus equipped, and amid conditions and circum- 
stances so tonic, stood Charles Sumner with the 
skeleton key, hard work in his hand, and the magic 
word "Excelsior " on his lips, those two instruments 
which have unlocked to many a youth, high-born and 
low-born, the portal of power and the gate to glory. 



Every time a great man comes on the stage of 
human affairs, the fable of Hercules repeats itself. 
He gets a sword from Mercury, a bow from Apollo, 
a breastplate from Vulcan, horses from Neptune, a 
robe from Minerva; /. <?., many streams from many 
sources bring to him their united strength. How 
otherwise would the great man be equal to his hour 
and task ? This wonderful truth, sealed within the 
myth, found fresh manifestation in the life of Sumner. 

The year after his graduation from Harvard Col- 
lege, viz., 1830-31, he spent at his home in the midst 
of books, which he continued to devour with increas- 
ing voracity. His truly extraordinary acquisitiveness 
sucked up the contents of books during the year as a 
huge sponge thrown into a tub of water sucks up the 
water. There was undoubtedly too much of the 
sponge-like absorption of the contents of books and 
not enough of proper digestion and assimilation of 
them, but on the whole the pabulum served fairly 
well to nourish the bone and muscle forming proc- 
esses of his rapidly developing mind. And so the 
twelve months were not wasted, but added rather 
their contribution of acquisition and reflection to the 
great preparation. 



The year was, however, not altogether a happy one 
for the young scholar. He needed appreciation, 
sympathy ; but from his family he got neither. Not 
that they were wanting in natural affection. Not at 
all, but only in the expression of the real love and 
pride with which they regarded him. They were 
evidently a rather cold, undemonstrative household. 
This was, as regards the father, particularly true. 
His. severe and sombre temper exerted, in all prob- 
ability, a repressing and depressing influence upon 
his children, excluded too early and too much the 
sunshine from their young faces and hearts, and, in 
consequence, cut them off from those mutual and 
pretty confidences and intimacies, which are the 
charm of domestic life. Sumner, with his unusual 
development of the bump of approbativeness, felt this 
lack of his family very keenly. He yearned for ap- 
preciation, for encouragement. To him, with his 
growing ego, these things were food and drink, their 
want was no light affliction. To one of his old col- 
lege mates, Jonathan F. Stearns, he wrote: "I think 
of hitching upon the law at Cambridge this coming 
commencement. I am grateful for the encouraging 
word you give me. I am rather despondent, and I 
meet from none of my family those vivifying expres- 
sions which a young mind always heartily accepts. 
My father says naught by way of encouragement. 
He seems determined to let me shape my own course, 
that it I am wise I shall be wise for myself ; and if I 
am foolish, I alone shall bear it." 

This experience, painful as it was to Sumner, was, 
after all, not a bad thing to happen to the youth. It 
checked, kept within moderation the growth of the 



ego which needed but the fallow soil of demonstra- 
tive family affection and hero-worship to cause it to 
shoot up and out beyond all true proportions to the 
rest of his faculties. The steady current of this fam- 
ily north wind snubbed the tendency to put forth too 
rapidly on the egoistic side of the son's character, 
and so preserved a proper balance of his forces. And 
this was of the utmost importance to him both in re- 
ceiving and giving, especially just then in respect of 
the first of these functions. On contact and associa- 
tion with superior minds he was to obtain no insig- 
nificant share of his outfit for the great part, which 
later he was to play in the history of his country. At 
the end of these months at home this new source of 
incalculable influence was opened to the young man 
by the side of that full stream which was flowing into 
his mind from the Pierian spring of books. Thence- 
forth they were to carry to him in parallel channels 
knowledge and wisdom. The choice of a profession 
and his return to Cambridge may be said to mark 
the end of the first and rudimentary stage of Sum- 
ner's apprenticeship, and the beginning of its second 
and more serious term. The thoughts and feelings 
of boyhood were left altogether behind the young 
man, who became thereafter wholly taken up with 
the things that belong to manhood and to the estate of 
a scholar. The passion for labor, for excellence, 
burned with new ardor within him. In his scholarly 
enthusiasm time appeared to him as more precious 
than silver, and it seemed " that every moment, like 
a filing of gold, ought to be saved." 

The ideal of the lawyer, which he hung up in his 
mind, was of the loftiest. " A lawyer must know 



everything," wrote the young disciple of Blackstone 
to a friend. "He must know law, history, philos- 
ophy, human nature ; and, if he covets the fame of an 
advocate, he must drink of all the springs of litera- 
ture, giving ease and elegance to the mind and illus- 
tration to whatever subject it touches." For the 
opposite of this noble ideal, the mere practitioner, 
he had thus early a seated loathing. " I had rather 
be a toad," said he, " and live upon a dungeon's vapor 
than one of those lumps of flesh that are christened 
lawyers, and who know only how to wring from 
quibbles and obscurities that justice, which else they 
never could reach ; who have no idea of law beyond 
its letter, nor of literature beyond their term reports 
and statutes. If I am a lawyer, I wish to be one who 
can dwell upon the vast heaps of law-matter, as the 
temple in which the majesty of right has taken its 
abode ; who will aim, beyond the mere letter, at the 
spirit — the broad spirit of the law — and who will 
bring to his aid a liberal and cultivated mind." 

And, significantly enough, the moral and humane 
aspects of his chosen profession strongly attracted 
him to it from the start. It was not merely the lucre 
and the fame which it offered him, though they, of 
course, had their influence, especially the latter. 
But beyond and above the purely personal benefits 
which the law held for its votaries, he discovered 
another and nobler element, an altruistic good. The 
lawyer, if worthy of his high calling, was the custo- 
dian of social justice, the guardian of the sources 
of the rights of person and of property, the cham- 
pion of civil and political liberty. According as 
he shapes his course he may be one of the best or 



worst of men. He may be a fomenter of quarrels 
between man and man, or a healer of their dissensions. 
He, too, may be a real evangel, a proclaimer of peace 
and good-will on earth — may be the lawyer, as truly 
as ever minister of religion was. " For," as our 
student reasoned, " religion exists independent of its 
ministers ; every breast feels it; but the law lives 
only in the honesty and learning of lawyers." He 
was keenly alive to the splendid opportunities which 
the legal profession presented to him of unselfish 
service to his kind, and almost, even then, exaltedly 
conscious of the corresponding responsibilities which 
they imposed upon him as a friend of man. His 
letters at this period are full of the ardor of the 
scholar and the moral glow of disinterested desire. 

In his teachers, Judge Story, Professor Ashmun, 
and later Professor Greenleaf, he was fortunate, 
indeed. The relationship which almost immediately 
sprang up between him and each of these eminent 
men was one of mutual and intimate friendship, 
embracing at once the pride and affection of the mas- 
ter for a favorite pupil, and that pupil's ardent admi- 
ration and devotion in return. Sumner's industry 
and enthusiasm, his singleness of purpose and the 
breadth of his intelligence, were enough to attract to 
him the eyes of quite ordinary instructors. But his 
teachers were not ordinary masters of the law, and 
so these qualities of the disciple drew them to him as 
to a kindred spirit. The tie between them seemed half 
paternal, half fraternal. Sumner was a sort of pro- 
fessional son and heir to their chairs and learning, a 
kind of younger comrade and brother in their labors 
and achievements. The second of these professors 


Sumner helped to nurse during his last sickness, and 
watched alone by his couch when he died. And 
it was he, the faithful disciple, who collected funds 
for a monument with which to mark the last resting 
place of the dead friend and master. 

His privileges were great, but never did pupil 
value them more highly than did Sumner. With 
Judge Story his relations were peculiarly close. He 
was the jurist's correspondent when absent in Wash- 
ington and on his circuit, keeping him the while in 
touch with the happenings of the university in gene- 
ral, and with those at the Law School in particular. 
Many were the kindly offices which the pupil per- 
formed for the master during these months when the 
duties of the Supreme Court engaged his presence 
elsewhere. Nothing could exceed the beauty of the 
friendship between the older and the younger man. 
The regard of the judge for Sumner was shared by 
his family. In it the favorite pupil was like an older 
son. And no son could indeed watch with livelier 
interest and satisfaction the growing fame of the 
great jurist, as judge and publicist. Between Sum- 
ner and the professor's son, William W. Story, then 
a mere slip of a boy, there sprang up an altogether 
charming friendship, a repetition in miniature of that 
between the father and Sumner. 

That boy, since famous in art and literature, has 
preserved his recollections of his and his father's 
friend. They were written many years later, after 
the death of that friend in fact, but the years could 
not rob them of the freshness and grace of those 
green and fragrant days when he made the ac- 
quaintance of the tall, ungainly law-student whose 



personality and conversation so fascinated him, that, 
in his own words, " When I heard that he was in the 
room, I quitted all occupations to see and hear him, 
though for the most part I only piayed the role of a 
listener." Many an evening he used to spend with 
Sumner at his room in the Dane Law School, reading 
Latin with him, and talking with him over the ancient 
authors. Sumner, with his erudition and enthusiasm, 
had the art to render these evenings most agreeable 
to the boy. " He talked of Cicero and Caesar," Wil- 
liam Story recalled forty years afterward; "of Hor- 
ace, Virgil, Tacitus, Sallust, and indeed of all the 
old Latin writers ; of the influence they had on their 
age, and their age had on them ; of the characteris- 
tics of their poetry and prose ; of the peculiarities of 
their style ; of the differences between them and our 
modern authors ; and he so talked of them as to 
interest and amuse me, and bring them before me as 
real and living persons out of the dim, vague mist in 
which they had hitherto stood in my mind. We used 
then, also, to cap Latin verses; and he so roused my 
ambition not to be outdone by him, that I collected 
from various authors a book full of verses, all of 
which I committed to memory. Of course, he beat 
me always, for he had a facile and iron memory 
which easily seized and steadily retained everything 
he acquired." 

This " facile and iron memory " was one of Sum- 
ner's principal endowments. It attracted the notice 
of the father as well as of the son. Judge Story 
remarked upon it and its characteristics at one of his 
Sunday evenings at the home of President Quincy. 
Said he, Sumner being the subject of conversa- 



tion between those eminent men: "He has a won- 
derful memory ; he keeps all his knowledge in 
order, and can put his hand on it in a moment. 
This is a great gift." It is undoubtedly a great gift, 
and it was to be of immense utility to its possessor in 
the leading role which later he was to enact on the 
stage of the Union. 

At the home of President Quincy, in Cambridge, 
Sumner was a familiar and frequent visitor. Their 
friendship was lifelong, and it was Mrs. Quincy, who, 
probably among the very first, foresaw a future for 
him. A daughter, Mrs. Waterston, remembered long 
years afterward, " the tall, spare form and honest 
face of Charles Sumner" at her mother's Thursday 
evening receptions. In her journal she recorded her 
impressions of the young friend of her father. " This 
youth," she wrote, " though not in the least hand- 
some, is so good-hearted, clever, and real, that it is 
impossible not to like him and believe in him." 
This seems to have been the universal opinion of his 
early friends. Serious he was but withal genial too, 
a capital talker, he was, at that period, a still more 
capital listener. Books he delighted in, but he 
delighted even more, if such a thing was possible, in 
intercourse with learned men. And as he valued and 
cherished his books, he valued and cherished not less 
his companionship with scholars and thinkers. Noth- 
ing could exceed the pious respect, nay, reverence 
even, with which he conducted himself toward his 
seniors, such as were President Quincy, Judge Story, 
and Professor Greenleaf, while toward his equals and 
his juniors in age he was the impersonation of kind- 
liness, simplicity, and manliness. 



W. W. Story has preserved an amusing instance of 
the young law-student's absorption in the pursuit of 
knowledge and of his preference for the society of 
men over that of women. " Of all men I ever knew 
at his age," says Mr. Story, " he was the least sus- 
ceptible to the charms of women. Men he liked best, 
and with them he preferred to talk. It was in vain 
for the loveliest and liveliest girl to seek to absorb 
his attention. He would at once desert the most 
blooming beauty to talk to the plainest of men. This 
was a constant source of amusement to us, and we 
used to lay wagers with the pretty girls, that with 
all their art they could not keep him at their side a 
quarter of an hour. Nor do I think we ever lost one of 
these bets. I remember particularly one dinner at my 
father's house, when it fell to his lot to take out a 
charming woman, so handsome and full of esprit that 
anyone at the table might well have envied him his 
position. She had determined to hold him captive, 
and win her bet against us. But her efforts were all 
in vain. Unfortunately, on his other side was a 
dry old savant, packed with information ; and within 
five minutes Sumner had completely turned his back 
on his fair companion, and engaged in a discussion 
with the other, which lasted the whole dinner. We 
all laughed. She cast up her eyes deprecatingly, 
acknowledged herself vanquished, and paid her bet. 
He had what he wanted — sensible men's talk. He 
had mined the savant, as he mined everyone he met, 
in search of ore, and was thoroughly pleased with 
what he got." 

During the latter part of Sumner's law-studentship 
at Cambridge, he held the post of librarian of the Law 



Library. It is said that so thoroughly and minutely 
did he know his domains, that he could put his hand 
on any volume in the dark. But his knowledge of 
them, it need hardly be added, was by no means 
limited to their location on the shelves. It extended 
to their contents and authorships as well. There 
was scarcely a text-book among them with which he 
did not have more than a superficial acquaintance. 
He could tell, besides, the manner of men who had 
written them. When he read a book he at once 
inquired after the man behind it — who had written 
it. He studied him, made him live and move before 
the mind's eye, then he appropriated him and his 
works to himself and his friends forever after. He 
obtained thus a sort of incorporeal hereditament and 
fee simple in the labor and learning of other lives. 

During this period Sumner prepared a catalogue 
of the library, which by competent judges was con- 
sidered excellent. Professor Story was especially 
well pleased with it, for it added, no doubt, not a 
little to the equipment and efficiency of the college 
as a place for study of the law. Amid incessant and 
excessive attention given to legal, classical, and lite- 
rary readings and acquisitions, the young scholar 
began about this time to write for the American Jurist, 
a magazine devoted to juridical subjects and litera- 
ture, and also for the American Monthly Review. His 
articles were learned, and " full of useful comment 
and research," to apply a phrase of Judge Story's in 
relation to one of them — to all of them. He found 
time also to compete for a Bowdoin prize, and to win 
it into the bargain. The contestants were limited to 
resident graduates, who were required to write on 



the theme " Are the most important changes in so- 
ciety effected gradually or by violent revolutions ?" 
Sumner's thesis adopted and enforced, by a wide 
historical view of Europe during the Middle Ages, 
the doctrine of social evolution or gradualism as the 
most potent factor in the production of important 
changes in modern civil society. Nevertheless he 
perceives the sublime utility of violent revolutions at 
emergent moments in the progress of humanity, and 
quotes John Milton, himself a revolutionist, in justifi- 
cation of them: " For surely, to every good and 
peaceable citizen, it must in nature needs be a hateful 
thing to be the displeaser and molester of thousands. 
But when God commands to take the trumpet and 
blow a dolorous or a jarring blast, it lies not in man's 
will what he shall say or what he shall conceal." The 
evident admiration of the essayist for this stern 
sentiment of the great English reformer was one of 
those " coming events " which are reputed to cast their 
shadows before. Should God ever command him " to 
take the trumpet and blow a dolorous or a jarring 
blast," it is clear that like his Puritan kin across the 
sea, he would elect to obey God rather than men. 
Reading between the lines, we catch the high thought 
of the young scholar in respect of the part he meant to 
play, if it should please God to cast his lot amid similar 
circumstances. About this time he took a lively and 
practical interest in temperance reform, and, when in 
March, 1833, a society was organized in the Univer- 
sity, he was chosen its first president. " A peculiar 
life-and-death earnestness," says Rev. A. A. Liver- 
more, the first vice-president of the society, " char- 
acterized even then all that Sumner did and said," 



And Rev. Samuel Osgood, its first secretary, recalls 
that " He had great strength of conviction on ethical 
subjects and decided religious principle ; yet he was 
little theological, much less ecclesiastical." This de- 
scription of the religious attitude of the young 
scholar finds confirmation in one of his private letters, 
written in January, 1833, to h* s friend, Jonathan F. 
Stearns, " I am without religious feeling," he frankly 
confesses, and goes on with his self-revelation in this 
wise : " I seldom refer my happiness or acquisitions 
to the Great Father from whose mercy they are 
derived. Of the first great commandment, then, 
upon which so much hangs, I live in perpetual un- 
consciousness — I will not say disregard, for that, 
perhaps, would imply that it was present in my 
mind. I believe, though, that my love to my neigh- 
bor, namely, my anxiety that my fellow-creatures 
should be happy, and disposition to serve them in 
their honest endeavors, is pure and strong. Certainly, 
I do feel an affection for everything that God created ; 
and this feeling is my religion.'" 

At the end of the year 1833, Sumner graduated from 
the Dane Law School, and entered forthwith the office 
of Benjamin Rand in Boston to obtain a practical 
knowledge of procedure in the courts. This knowl- 
edge was necessary to his complete equipment for 
the career of a lawyer, which he was strongly desirous 
of pursuing. Nothing less than a sense of its necessity 
could have separated him at the time from the law 
school, which was growing fast and far in favor and 
fame, under the brilliant professional management of 
his friends and masters, Story and Greenleaf. The 
college in the autumn of 1833 numbered upwards of 



fifty students, which was probably at that date the 
largest collection of young men who had ever gathered 
in one place in America for the study of the law. 
With the continued increase of students there would 
presently come an addition to the teaching force of 
the school. Professor Story counted quite confidently 
on an early reinforcement of his own and Professor 
Greenleaf's labors in this regard, and with no less con- 
fidence on the return then of Sumner to the school as 
the new colleague. Indeed, so large a void was created 
in Cambridge by the absence of the young scholar 
that Judge Story urged him, a few months after he 
had left for the law office in Boston, to return to the 
school as an associate instructor therein. But Sumner 
was too firmly joined to his ambition for a forensic 
career to surrender it even to oblige the judge, or for 
the sake of enjoying academic honors and pursuits, 
dearly as he loved both. And so the offer was declined. 

His refusal to return to Cambridge was not, under 
the circumstances, surprising. For he was, as all 
students of the law are apt to be, fascinated by the 
struggles and triumphs of the forum, and desirous 
of following in the steps of the great advocates. Sum- 
ner naturally enough had his illusions in respect 
of his fitness for sustaining such a role — illusions which 
nothing less hard than experience was equal to break- 
ing. But whoever undertakes to practice law will 
find that in whatever else he may be lacking it will 
not be in experience. Clients may fail, but experience 
will never — experience of an altogether disillusioning 
sort, as multitudes of young aspirants for the mantles 
of Erskine and Choate learn them every year at the 



Sumner however, even in the neophyte state, was 
not without misgivings as to whether he possessed 
the qualifications indispensable to the successful prac- 
titioner in the rough and tumble of the arena of 
courts. His old classmate, John W. Browne ; him- 
self a lawyer, had not any doubt of Sumner's defi- 
ciency in the qualities essential to success in " harsh, 
everyday practice. " " You are not rough-shod 
enough," Brown wrote him, " to travel in the stony 
and broken road of homely, harsh, everyday practice." 
He did not think that Sumner was fashioned for that 
kind of life either by the hand of nature or in the 
school of experience. He had indeed lived among 
books, and away from all except one class of mind. He 
knew books, but next to nothing of men,/, e., the sort 
of men who do business before courts. Brown justly 
observed that all Sumner's inclinations and habits set 
him on " with a strong tendency toward a green emin- 
ence of fame and emolument " in his profession," but 
you are not destined to reach it," he added sagely, " by 
traveling through the ordinary business of a young 
lawyer in the courts." He, therefore, urged Sumner 
to fall in with the offer of Judge Story, and return to 
Cambridge. But Sumner, as we have already seen, 
was of another mind, and he accordingly persevered 
in his purpose to enter upon the " harsh, everyday 
practice " of his profession, the invitation of Judge 
Story, and the counsel of Brown to the contrary not- 

Sumner was always for going to the fountain-head 
for any knowledge which he wanted. And as he 
was now acquainting himself with legal procedure 
and the conduct of causes, he turned to the Su- 



preme Court at Washington, as to a peculiarly fit 
place to pursue his studies. So, in the winter of 1834, 
only a few weeks after his graduation from the Law 
School at Cambridge, he betook himself off to the 
national capitol. He went armed cap-a-pie with 
letters intruducing him to various distinguished 
people in New York and Philadelphia, and with his 
eyes wide open to what there was to see and learn by 
the way. The journey in those days from Boston to 
Washington was made almost wholly in coaches and 
steamboats, for, be it remembered, that, in 1834 the 
railroad era was but just beginning. The novelty of 
the new motor power of transportation by steam, 
when Sumner made his visit to Washington, pro- 
duced the most agreeable sensations of surprise and 
wonder in the minds of travelers, accustomed to the 
old means of locomotion by wind and horses. " There 
is something partaking of the sublime," wrote Sum- 
ner to a fourteen-year-old sister, " in the sense that you 
are going at the rate of fifteen miles an hour, drawn 
by an insensible agent, the contrivance of man, who 
has "sought out many inventions " ; enjoying, if you 
are in a boat, all the comforts and luxuries of the finest 
hotel, walking over carpets or sitting at a table 
loaded with all the products of the season ; or, if in 
a railroad car, enjoying at least a comfortable and 
easy seat, from which you may see the country over 
which you are flying as a bird." 

At New York, our traveler visited Chancellor Kent, 
whose conversation he found " lively and instructive, 
but grossly ungrammatical." In Philadelphia, he 
renewed an old acquaintance with Mr. Richard 
Peters, the official reporter of the decisions of the 



Supreme Court, and was received into the family cf 
that gentleman on most cordial and intimate terms. 
To a daughter of Mr. Peters this generation of read- 
ers is indebted for a graphic sketch of our hero as he 
appeared then. " When he came to Philadelphia in 
1834," she says, "he had finished his course at the 
Law School, I think, but had almost put his eyes out 
with hard study, and was forced to come away for 
rest. He was then a great, tall, lank creature, quite 
heedless of the form and fashion of his garb, unso- 
phisticated, everybody said, and oblivious of the pro- 
priety of wearing a hat in a city, going about in a 
rather shabby fur cap ; but the fastidiousness of 
fashionable ladies was utterly routed by the wonder- 
ful charm of his conversation, and he was carried 
about triumphantly, and introduced to all the dis- 
tinguished people, young and old, who then made 
Philadelphia society so brilliant. No amount of honey- 
ing, however, could then affect him. His simplicity, 
his perfect naturalness, was what struck everyone, 
combined with his rare culture, and his delicious 
youthful enthusiasm." 

Here is an instance of his " delicious youthful enthu- 
siasm " for an object other than knowledge. The pic- 
ture is done by the same hand, and belongs to the 
time of that first visit to Philadelphia : " He was 
almost beside himself then over Fanny Kemble's act- 
ing ; used to walk, he said, that winter to and from 
Boston, through snow and storm, to see her act. One 
of my sisters had a singular ability in imitating this 
gifted woman's acting and reading, and it was Charles 
Sumner's delight to insist on this rather shy lady's 
performing for him. His exclamation was, ' By 



George, that's fine ! By George, that's fine, Miss S.! 
give it to us again; now, Miss S.! The 'Do it' 
point, — the * Do it' point (from Sheridan Knowles's 
'Hunchback'). And striking his great hands 
together and heaving them about like Dominie Samp- 
son, and striding up and down the room, he would 
keep repeating, ' By George, that's fine ! ' " 

At Washington the young jurist obtained his soul's 
desire, viz., an opportunity of drinking at the national 
fountain-head of jurisprudence whence were flowing 
the living waters of the law of a new country. Over 
the Supreme Court John Marshall, the great Chief 
Justice, still presided, and by his side and second only 
to him in the judiciary of the land, sat Sumner's mas- 
ter, Joseph Story, one of the most learned jurists of 
the age, and there also sat McLean, who was subse- 
quently to prove that, unseduced by circumstances 
and unawed by power, he was in independence and 
courage, a lineal descendant of the brave and liberty- 
loving judges of glorious old England. At its bar 
was gathered annually the flower of the forum of all 
the States, from that big-brained, deep-throated mas- 
tiff of litigious suitors, Webster himself, through the 
variedly and splendidly gifted and equipped forensic 
leaders of the times, who with the erudite and illus- 
trious judges who sat on the bench made the Supreme 
Court then the Mecca of the American student of the 

Sumner's intimacy with Judge Story gave him al- 
most "a place in the Court," where for a month he 
pitched his tent during several hours of each day. 
The judges he came to know quite well within and 
without the court. In 1834, they all put up at the 



same boarding-house where Sumner was a nightly 
visitor. Judge Marshall he found " a model of simplic- 
ity . . . naturally taciturn, and yet ready to laugh, 
to joke, and to be joked with." Within the bar Sum- 
ner saw a degree of negligence in the preparation of 
their cases by eminent counsel that made anything 
but an edifying spectacle for either gods, or law-stu- 
dents. To Professor Greenleaf he wrote of an in- 
stance of this character, in which figured Francis 
Scott Key, author of " The Star-Spangled Banner," 
Walter Jones, and Daniel Webster. But here is 
Sumner's relation of the incident on the spot: "Key 
has not prepared himself, and now speaks from his 
preparation on the trial below, relying upon a quick- 
ness and facility of language rather than upon re- 
search. Walter Jones — a man of acknowledged 
powers in the law, unsurpassed, if not unequaled, 
by any lawyer in the country — is in the same plight. 
He is now conning his papers and maturing his 
points — a labor which, of course, he should have 
gone through before he entered the court-room. 
And our Webster fills up the remiss triumvirate. He, 
like Jones, is doing the labor in court which should 
have been done out of court. In fact, politics have 
entirely swamped his whole time and talents. All 
here declare that he has neglected his cases this term 
in a remarkable manner. It is now whispered in the 
room that he has not looked at the present case, 
though the amount at stake is estimated at half a 
million of dollars." Nor was this, alas ! the only ex- 
ample of that great man's capacity for neglecting the 
interests of his clients, of leaving undone the things, 
which, as their retained attorney, he ought to have 



done, witnessed by Sumner during his stay at Wash- 

Politics had, indeed, during the then session of 
Congress, swamped all of Webster's time and talents. 
And no wonder. For politics during those months, 
and, in fact, ever since the election of Jackson, were 
of an altogether unusual and engrossing character. 
Perhaps never in the history of the republic has party 
excitement run higher than it did at this period. 
The removal of the treasury deposits from Mr. 
Nicholas Biddle's Bank of the United States by an 
executive order was, at the date of Sumner's visit to 
the Federal capital, the occasion of most extraordi- 
nary demonstrations against the President. Philippic 
followed philippic against the determined old man, at 
whose head his political opponents were pleased to 
shy such epithets as "tyrant," "usurper," and other 
ridiculously extravagant appellations, all tending to 
advertise him as a sort of American Caesar or Bona- 
parte, bent on subverting the liberties of the Union, 
and at the same time to arouse against him such a 
storm of popular feeling as to blow him and his party 
clean out of the government, and to blow the afore- 
said political opponents and their parties into posses- 
sion of it. And so Sumner found those Neptunes of 
the political deep, Webster, Calhoun, and Clay, busy 
beating with their senatorial tridents the yeasty sea 
of national politics into waves and billows for the 
sake of whelming the beforementioned " usurper and 
tyrant" who, by the way, when Sumner saw him, 
"appeared very infirm ... to have hardly nerve 
enough to keep his bones together." Nevertheless, 
it is plain enough that the young scholar's sympathies 



were wholly against "the old tyrant," and with his 
enemies, to whose attacks in the Senate he listened 
eagerly, and from one of whom at least he was the 
recipient of marked attention. This one was no 
other than Webster himself, who introduced his 
young townsman to the floor of the Senate, giving 
him a card, which enabled him at all times to gain 
access to the floor. Webster little dreamed that that 
young townsman of his was in the space of eighteen 
years to succeed him on that floor, and impossible it 
was for Sumner to foresee the imposing part which 
he was to play as that great man's successor in that 

During these visits to the Senate, Sumner had not 
only the good fortune to hear Webster, but Calhoun 
and Clay as well, the second of whom he describes 
as " no orator, very rugged in his language, unstudied 
in style, marching directly to the main points of his 
subject without stopping for parley or introduction." 
Clay's " eloquence was splendid and thrilling," he 
wrote home. " There was not one there whose blood 
did not flow quickly," goes on our Bostonian, "and 
pulse throb quickly as he listened. . . . His language, 
without being choice, is strong ; but it is his ?nanner y 
or what Demosthenes called action — action — action — 
which makes him so powerful." 

Sumner did not think that he would ever revisit 
Washington. " I have little or no desire," he wrote 
his father, " ever to come again in any capacity. 
Nothing that I have seen of politics has made me 
look upon them with any feeling other than loathing. 
The more I see of them, the more I love law, which, 
I feel, will give me an honorable livelihood." 



It was on the way between Baltimore and Wash- 
ington that he had his first glimpse of the barbarism 
of slavery — the actual, unadulterated article — and of 
its mildew effects upon the people and section where 
it existed. "The whole country," he wrote his 
parents, "was barren and cheerless; houses were 
sprinkled very thinly on the road, and when they 
did appear they were little better than hovels — mere 
log-huts, which father will remember, though none 
else of the family may be able to conceive them. 
For the first time I saw slaves, and my worst precon- 
ception of their appearance and ignorance did not 
fall as low as their actual stupidity. They appear to 
be nothing more than moving masses of flesh, unen- 
dowed with anything of intelligence above the brutes. 
I have now an idea of the blight upon that part of 
our country in which they live." That idea was never 
to be erased from the tablet of his mind, nor was that 
first frightful glance down into the depths of the 
slave system ever to be forgotten by him. 

7t will not fail to be noted by the reader that in 
this first impression of slavery in the concrete on the 
part of Sumner, it was its political rather than its 
moral aspect which attracted his attention, and 
excited his strong repulsion. In other words it was 
the patriot not the philanthropist who animadverted 
on the degradation and ruin with which Southern 
slavery had doomed the Southern half of the Union. 
The active love of country preceded in the bosom of 
the young scholar the active love of man. First 
the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear 
is the law of spiritual as well as of vegetable develop- 
ment. First family, then country, then humanity 



are the upward steps in the ethical progress and 
unfolding of the soul of man. Sumner's feet were in 
this royal road, and his earnest mind was turned 
truly Zionward, humanity-ward. 

In September of 1834, the young attorney was 
admitted to the bar, and began at once to practice 
law, appearing in his first case, which was a criminal 
action, but a few weeks after his admission. He and 
George S. Hillard, his associate, successfully defended 
the accused, who was indicted for an attempt to vio- 
late the law for the prevention of duelling in Massa- 

In November, he and Hillard formed a partnership 
for the practice of the law and opened chambers on 
Court street in Boston. There, if the partners did 
not get all the legal business which they could attend 
to, they succeeded fairly well in that line. But if 
troops of clients did not find their way to those 
rooms, troops of friends did. And what friends they 
were ! They were in fact no small part of Sumner's 
education. Among those who dropped in on the 
young lawyers were men already famous in law, 
letters, and politics, or who were destined to achieve 
fame in them all. There were Judge Story, and Pro- 
fessor Greenleaf, and C. C. Felton, the future pres- 
ident of Harvard University, and George Bancroft, 
the future historian of the United States, and Horace 
Mann, the future reformer and benefactor of his 
species, and Edward Greely Loring, who, too, was 
some day to be talked about, though not exactly in 
the way of some of the others, of Horace Mann for 
instance. These and other choice spirits not named 
formed a goodly company of earnest, aspiring minds, 



the crime de la creme, so to speak, of the culture and 
character of the old town. 

Besides this larger circle of friends, there was later 
an inner and limited one of elect companions. They 
were called the " Five of Clubs," and consisted of 
Henry W. Longfellow, C. C. Felton, Henry R. Cleve- 
land, and of Hillard and Sumner, who was the young- 
est of the five scholars, who together made excursions 
over almost the whole field of human knowledge, and 
sat in judgment upon each other's writings as well. 
The goodly fellowship of such minds was in itself a 
liberal education. Such contact of intellect with in- 
tellect keeps all the faculties alert and in exercise, 
acts as a steady tonic upon them, develops a muscu- 
larity and robustness of the moral and intellectual 
life, that no other one agency can perform quite as 
well. It was of great value to the brilliant young 
scholars who together formed the "Five of Clubs," 
but to Sumner, with his omnivorous appetite for 
books, and his enormous powers of acquisitiveness, 
the "Five of Clubs "must have been of inestimable 
value, by strengthening his mental powers of diges- 
tion and assimilation of the vast amount of matter 
which he was constantly taking into the stomach of 
his intellect, if I may be allowed to use the expres- 
sion. It gave him probably a mastery over the im- 
mense stores of his acquisitions, which he could not 
well have acquired, or at least so effectively, in any 
other way. It taught him to know himself, to gauge 
his relative strength, to measure his relative height in 
a company of equals. He, with the great work which 
the future held waiting for him to do, needed to 
know himself, to trust himself, to test himself, to 


learn to lean without a doubt upon himself through 
good report and evil. And what better preparation 
can one have for this self-faith, for a simple virile re- 
liance upon the might of one's very self than a knowl- 
edge of that self, such a knowledge as a powerful 
mind must always obtain, when thrown into frank 
critical, earnest, and intimate association with its 

If the young attorney's clients did not occupy all 
of his time, his time was, nevertheless, wholly occupied 
to the last inch of it by other duties. In January, 

1835, he began to fill Judge Story's place at the Law 
School during his attendance upon the sessions of the 
Supreme Court at Washington. Sumner's success in 
his new role of instructor in law, was, according to 
Professor Greenleaf, in every way complete and grati- 
fying- Judge Story wrote him from the capital : " I 
hope that this is but the beginning, and that one day 
you may fill the chair which he [Prof. Greenleaf] or 
I occupy, if he or I, like autocrats, can hope to ap- 
point our successors." A little later in the same 
year, Judge Story evinced still further his high esti- 
mate of his pupil's ability and learning by appointing 
him the reporter of his Circuit Court opinions. Three 
volumes of Judge Story's opinions were subsequently 
published by Sumner, the first of them appeared in 

1836, the second in 1837, and the third in 1841. The 
Judge honored Sumner by a third appointment in 
1835, viz., with a commissionership of the Circuit Court 
of the United States, an office which was to be re- 
signed by the appointee many years afterward when 
it conflicted with his duties as a man. But we are an- 



Besides labor of the above description Sumner did 
no inconsiderable amount of editorial and special 
magazine work on the American Jurist, of which he, 
and Hillard, and Luther S. Cushing became editors in 
April, 1836. The character of the numerous articles 
which appeared from his pen in the Jurist during this 
period, shows quite clearly the literary bias of Sum- 
ner's tastes, "which led him to write upon authors, 
books, and libraries," remarks Mr. Edward L. Pierce 
in his " Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner," 
"rather than upon the law itself." In addition to his 
magazine work he assisted Professor Greenleaf in the 
preparation of the general digest of his " Reports of 
the Decisions of the Supreme Court of Maine," and 
Mr. Andrew Dunlap in the final revision of his "Ad- 
miralty Practice." 

There is one thing of which we may be sure, that in 
all of Sumner's editorial and magazine work money 
was the last consideration thought of by him. He 
looked for his principal remuneration to the knowl- 
edge of the law which he would obtain through the 
doing of all this work. When he read law for an 
article or as a collaborator of legal treatises, etc., he 
perceived that such readings were altogether different 
matters from other readings which had no purpose 
and end in view except the mere getting of informa- 
tion. He has expressed his own sentiment on this 
point in a letter to a young lawyer whom he had 
recommended as a fit person for editing a new edi- 
tion of the " Pickering Reports " of Massachusetts. 
To Mr. J. C. Perkins he wrote: "Don't regard the 
money as the pay. It is the knowledge you will get — 
the stimulus under which your mind will act when 


you feel that you are reading law for a purpose and an 
end other than the bare getting of information — every 
spur and ambition exciting you; depend upon it, no 
engraver will trace the law on your mind in such deep 
characters. ... If I auger right, the six weeks in 
which I think you will accomplish it, will be the most 
productive of your whole life. In them you will feel 
more palpably your progress than ever before in the 
same amount of time." Actuated by such a scholarly 
passion for knowledge, it was a foregone conclusion 
that every piece of work to which Sumner put his 
hands during these first years after his admission to 
the bar should react upon his faculties as an educator, 
should constitute a part of the great preparation, 
which, all unconsciously, he was making for future 
eminence and usefulness to mankind. 

Writing to the same gentleman a little later touching 
the same subject matter, Sumner recurs to the item of 
the mere money consideration of the engagement as 
compared with other less material advantages which 
would thereby inure to his friend. Says Sumner: " I 
still feel that the money will be the least advantage 
that you will reap. The practice, the self-confi- 
dence (without which, if properly tempered by mod- 
esty, nothing great can be done), the habit of looking 
up cases and of looking down upon the opinions of 
judges, and the wide and various learning . . . 
will be worth more to you than a governmental 
office." Sumner by no means despised money ; but, 
on the contrary, fully recognized its utility in the pur- 
suit of knowledge. As an instrument it was greatly 
to be desired, and was indeed greatly desired by him; 
but money as an end he did not want, considered it, as 



such, not worth the striving for. And when it lowered 
a student's aims, or lessened his industry, its possession 
was no more nor less than the possession of an evil 
spirit, which required exorcism in the interest of the 
higher life of scholarship. To his friend Francis Lie- 
ber, he wrote: " You are one of the few men whom I 
wish to see with a fortune, because I believe you would 
use it as one who has God's stamp should. It will be 
only a novum organon for higher exertion. You love 
labor so lovingly, and drive it with such effect, that I 
would risk you with Croesus's treasury." Not all the 
pleasures and splendors which the devil of material 
wealth spread out before Sumner was able to tempt 
him, the young scholar of twenty-four, by so much as 
a single thought or act into apostacy from the simple 
and grand ideal of the seeker after knowledge, the 
lover of truth. 

A strong and interesting friendship sprang up be- 
tween Sumner and Lieber, a man of encyclopedic 
range of mind, and of an extraordinary capacity for 
literary labor, and for turning out in the likeness and 
form of a new book whatever came to his mill. 
Sumner was a man after his own heart, who could be 
depended upon to keep the hopper of the great 
German replenished with bulging sacks of corn. 
Upon the young scholar Dr. Lieber made constant 
requisitions during the preparation of his books, and 
these draughts were honored in turn with a prompt- 
ness and completeness which left nothing to be 
desired in the way of the information wanted. 
Sumner never tired of serving his friend, now it was 
one thing, now another — was always seeking, in 
fact — to advance Dr. Lieber's fame and fortune. Here 



is the way the savant looked upon the aid and comfort 
rendered him by the young Boston scholar. " Let 
me thank you, my dear friend, most heartily," he 
wrote Sumner in 1837, " for your kind addition of 
stock to my work in your last. The interest I see 
you take in my book cheers me much. Contribute 
more and more. It will all be thankfully received ; 
only I am afraid I shall be embarrassed how to use it. 
I cannot all the time say, 'contributed by a friend,' 
and yet I do not want to plume myself with your 
feathers . . . and, my dear fellow, if it were not 
asking too much, I would beg you to grant me a 
pigeon-hole in your mind while abroad ; say, if you 
would, a memorandum book with this title : 1 All 
sorts of stuff for Lieber.'" Sumner was amply com- 
pensated for such services in his contact and corre- 
spondence with a scholar of so vast a range of 
knowledge and of such productive energies, as was 
Francis Lieber. But even more highly than the 
good which he derived from association with a 
first-rate mind must be estimated the reading " for a 
purpose and an end other than the bare getting of in- 
formation," which the demands of Dr. Lieber must 
have more or less entailed upon him. 

To this early period must, probably, be referred 
the beginnings of Sumner's interest in the Peace 
question. His friendship with Dr. Channing, which 
dates from the same period, had, it is not altogether 
unlikely, some influence in turning his attention to 
that subject. At any rate, we know that in April, 
1835, interest in the Peace question was taking 
root in his mind. Writing to Dr. Lieber, touching 
several of the doctor's productions, Sumner speaks 



particularly of "The Stranger in America," adding: 
"I think the Peace Society could do nothing better 
than reprint your chapter on Waterloo as a tract, 
or, at least, as an article in one of their journals. 
It gives the most vivid sketch I ever read of the 
horrors of war, because it embodies them in the 
experience of one individual, without resorting to 
any of the declamatory generalities which are gener- 
ally used with that view." A little later, in the 
summer of the same year, Sumner recurs to the 
subject to express his determination to have the doc- 
tor's sketch of the Battle of Waterloo published as a 
peace tract or as an essay in some journal of the 
Peace Society, and his intention to write an introduc- 
tion in connection with it. 

During this same period Sumner began to take a 
lively interest in another reform. It was, probably, 
directl} r after the great mob in 1835, by which Garri- 
son was dragged through the streets of Boston and 
nearly lost his life, that the young scholar began to 
read the Liberator. The excesses of the friends of 
slavery disgusted him, excited his hot indignation. 
Besides, too, the slave tyranny had struck him at home 
in the person of his father, who came near losing his 
office, the reader will recall, owing to a pro-slavery 
outburst against him in the city for alleged negli- 
gence in the case of the two slave women referred to 
in the first chapter of this book. The assault upon 
Mr. Sewall by a slaveholder for the part taken by 
him in the rescue of the fugitives aroused Sumner's 
ire to an intense degree, as is evinced by a postcript 
to a letter of his from Montreal to George S. Hillard 
in the autumn of 1836. "How my blood boils," 



runs the postscript, " at the indignity to S. E. 

To his friend, Dr. Lieber, who was then domiciled 
in Columbia, S. C, Sumner had written as early as 
January, 1836 : " You are in the midst of slavery, 
seated among its whirling eddies blown round as they 
are by the blasts of Governor McDuffie, fiercer than 
any from the old wind-bags of ^Eolus. What think 
you of it ? Should it longer exist ? Is not emancipa- 
tion practicable ? We are becoming Abolitionists at 
the North fast ; the riots, the attempts to abridge the 
freedom of discussion, Governor McDufhe's message, 
and the conduct of the South generally have caused 
many to think favorably of immediate emancipation 
who never before inclined to it." In sooth, Hercules 
is beginning to scent the Lernaean hydra from afar. 



One December evening nearly sixty years ago 
there might have been seen in New York a young 
Bostonian of the most striking appearance. A hero he 
seemed in height, though hardly a hero in propor- 
tions. Thin and long drawn out he was — a straight 
line set on straight lines, and endowed with marvel- 
ous length of limbs and prodigious powers of loco- 
motion. The appositeness of that bit of Biblical 
humor of the Lord's taking no pleasure in the legs 
of a man, would have quickly occurred to the mind 
of an irreverent wit. For certainly the ambulatory 
appendages of the young gentleman were deficient in 
grace and comeliness. Yet laugh would neither your 
irreverent wit nor would we. For there was, withal, so 
much of eagerness, energy, enthusiasm, expressed 
and flung off, as it were, by the flying figure that both 
he and we must have instantly forgotten the subject 
of its proportions in the higher one of its person- 

And had we tracked him to his rooms, our curiosity 
would have been further piqued by these additional 
points : an ample and shapely mouth, gleaming with 
large white teeth, dark, masterful eyes, a nose long 
and regular, a brow broad and lofty, and a head of 


uncom-n>fi aise covered with masses of thick, brown 
hair. We would have been struck in the tout ensemble 
of figure and face by that sort of immature strength 
and splendor which distinguishes a growing mastiff. 
And well we might, for he, the original, belonged to 
that superb breed of human watch-dogs, who appear 
at intervals, in the history of mankind, to stand ward 
and watch over their rights. It was Charles Sumner 
at the age of twenty-six, and on the eve of his first 
visit to Europe in 1837. 

This visit to Europe was in Sumner's life no ordi 
nary event but was meant to add the finishing touche 
to his great preparation. When rallied as young 
men are wont to be on the subject of matrimony, he 
used to reply. " I am married to Europa." And i 
was so, indeed, for until he had satisfied the desire 
of his soul by going abroad for study, he had no 
superfluous devotion to lay at the feet of any other 
passion or attraction. Perhaps a few extracts from 
his letters will serve to exhibit the ardor and strength 
of his desire in this regard, and also the uses to which 
he meant to convert his visit abroad. 

Writing to a friend, acknowledging the receipt of 
a foreign letter sent to him for perusal by that friend 
Sumner expresses himself in this wise: " I am always 
delighted — it amounts almost to a monomania in 
me — to see any such missive from abroad, or to hear 
personal, literary, or legal news about the distin 
guished men of whom I read." Two years later, in 
the summer of 1837, thus to Dr. Lieber: " The thought 
of Europe fills me with the most tumultuous emo 
tions ; there, it seems, my heart is garnered up. I 
feel, when I commune with myself about it, as when 


dwelling on the countenance and voice of a lovely- 
girl. I am in love with Europa." And a few months 
later to the same: " I shall remember you at every 
step of my journey, and in your dear fatherland shall 
especially call you to my mind. Oh, that I spoke 
your tongue ! . . . I shall write you in German from 
Germany. There, on the spot, with the mighty 
genius of your language hovering over me, I will 
master it. To that my nights and days must be 
devoted. The spirits of Goethe, and Richter, and 
Luther, will cry in my ears, ' trumpet-tongued.' I 
would give Golconda, or Potosi, or all Mexico, if I 
had them, for your German tongue." And later still 
this : " To-morrow I embark for Havre, and I assure 
you it is with a palpitating heart that I think of it. 
Hope and joyous anticipations send a thrill through 
me; but a deep anxiety and sense of the importance of 
the step check the thrill of pleasure. I need say 
nothing to you, I believe, in justification of my 
course, as you enter with lively feelings into my 
ambition and desires. Believe me, that I know my 
J position and duties; and though I trust Europe may 
improve, and return me to my own dear country with 
a more thorough education and a higher standard of 
ambition and life, yet it cannot destroy any simplicity 
of character which I possess, or divert me from the 
duties of the world." To Professor Greenleaf from 
the Astor House on the eve of his departure he 
writes : " It is no slight affair to break away from 
the business which is to give me my daily bread, and 
pass across the sea to untried countries, usages, and 
languages. And I feel now pressing with a moun- 
tain's weight the responsibility of my step. But I go 



abroad with the purest determination to devote 
myself to self-improvement from the various sources 
of study, observation, and society, and to return an 
American.'" And to Hillard the next day : " We 
have left the wharf, and with a steamer by our side. 
A smacking breeze has sprung up, and we shall part 
this company soon ; and then for the Atlantic ! Fare- 
well, then, my friends, my pursuits, my home, my 
country ! Each bellying wave on its rough crest 
carries me away. The rocking vessel impedes my 
pen. And now, as my head begins slightly to reel, 
my imagination entertains the glorious prospects 
before me — the time-honored rites and edifices of the 
Old World, her world-renowned men, her institutions 
handed down from distant generations, and her vari- 
ous languages replete with learning and genius. 
These may I enjoy in the spirit that becomes a Chris- 
tian and an American." 

When the plan of this visit was forming in his 
mind, he took counsel with his friends, Judge Story, 
Professor Greenleaf, and President Quincy, who were 
not at all well affected to it. The two first feared 
that it would wean him from his profession, the latter 
that Europe would spoil him, send him back with a 
mustache and a walking-stick ! Certainly the step 
was an extraordinary one for a young lawyer to take, 
and would require extraordinary reasons to justify it, 
of all of which Sumner was, as the time for his 
departure drew nigh, gravely and even painfully con- 
scious. But we will let him present his own case to 
the reader, its pros and cons, just as he entered them 
in his journal on Christmas Day while still at sea. 
He has been reviewing his last day on shore, how he 



dined with this friend and called on another, how he 
busied himself with parting words to other friends 
far into the watches of that last night, and continues 
thus : " And a sad time it was, full of anxious 
thoughts and doubts, with mingled gleams of glori- 
ous anticipations. I thought much of the position 
which I abandoned for the present ; the competent 
income which I forsook ; the foaming tide, whose 
bouyant waters were bearing me so well, which I 
refused to take even at its ebb — these I thought of, 
and then the advice and warnings of many whose 
opinions I respect. The dear friends I was to 
leave behind, all came rushing before me, and affec 
tion for them was a new element in the cup of my 
anxieties. But, on the other hand, the dreams of my 
boyhood came before me ; the long-pondered visions, 
first suggested by my early studies, and receiving 
new additions with every step of my progress ; 
my desire, which has long been above all other 
desires, to visit Europe ; and my long-cherished 
anticipations of the most intellectual pleasure and 
the most permanent profit. Europe and its reverend 
history, its ancient races, its governments handed 
down from all time, its sights memorable in story ; 
above all, its present existing institutions, laws, and 
society, and its men of note and mind, followed in the 
train, and the thought of all these reassured my 
spirit. In going abroad at my present age, and situ- 
ated as I am, I feel that I take a bold, almost a rash 
step. One should not easily believe that he can 
throw off his clients and then whistle them back, 'as 
a huntsman does his pack.' But I go for purposes of 
education, and to gratify longings which prey upon 



my mind and time. Certainly, I never could be con- 
tent to mingle in the business of my profession, with 
that devotion which is necessary to the highest suc- 
cess, until I had visited Europe. The course which 
my studies have taken has also made it highly desir- 
able that I should have the advantage derived from 
a knowledge of the European languages, particularly 
French and German, and also a moderate acquaint- 
ance with the laws and institutions of the Old World, 
more at least than I can easily gain at home. In my 
pursuits lately, I have felt the want of this knowledge, 
both of the languages, particularly German, and of 
the Continental jurisprudence. I believe, then, that 
by leaving my profession now, I make a present sacri- 
fice for a future gain ; that I shall return with 
increased abilities for doing good, and acting well my 
part in life " 

The fears of Sumner's friends were vain. Ah ! how 
little did they, the noblest of them, comprehend him 
or his future ; how little, in truth, did he comprehend 
himself and the destiny which futurity had in keep- 
ing for him ; how impossible for him or them to 
forsee that this visit abroad was but to complete his 
apprenticeship, to finish the great preparation. To 
revert to the Greek fable, it was like Hercules going 
into the Nemean Forest to cut himself a club. The 
Nemean Forest, into which Sumner was now plunging, 
was Europe with its old societies, laws, languages, 
literatures, races ; and the club with which he was to 
arm himself for the Herculean labors of his ripened 
faculties was enlarged human sympathies, a wider, 
deeper knowledge of man. 

It was an audacious boast of Guizot that France is 



the centre, the focus of European civilization, the 
leader of European progress. " There is not a single 
great idea, not a single great principle of civilization/' 
says this celebrated historian, " which, in order to 
become universally spread, has not first passed 
through France." If this is so, and as a general prop- 
osition I see no reason to question its soundness, 
then Paris, which is the centre and focus of French 
life, is the place of all others to enter upon the study 
of European life. And to Paris the young American 
scholar, accordingly, betook him at once for the 
accomplishment of his purpose. 

But of what value to him was a residence in the 
French metropolis without the use of the French 
language. It was the clew to the human labyrinth 
into which he had plunged, and he had it not. To 
know French with the eye was one thing, to know it 
with the ear and the tongue quite another thing. He 
found himself, in respect of the latter knowledge, as 
helpless as a child just beginning to talk. But with 
characteristic thoroughness and self-denial he 
attacked this difficulty. He studied French by day 
and he studied it by night. He studied it first under 
one teacher, and then under two teachers. He 
studied it at his meals, taking good care so to sur- 
round himself, that he had need to make constant 
attempts to get his tongue acquainted with the lan- 
guage, in order to express his wants, and to accustom 
his ears to it, in order to place himself in communi- 
cation with the minds about him. Among other means 
used by him to this end were the theatres which he 
frequented. Here, with copies of the plays before 
him, he followed the players with eye and ear, learn- 



ing in this way to blend form with sound, to listen 
with the sense of sight and to see with the sense of 
hearing. The lectures of the famous schools he made 
to serve his purpose in this regard also. 

Of course, he blundered like any beginner. And his 
errors were amusing enough at times. Here is a case 
in point. He has called on Fcelix, the distinguished 
editor of the Revue Etrangere, and a French admirer 
of Judge Story. " On being shown into the room of 
the learned pundit," writes Sumner, " I summoned 
all my French, and asked, 1 Est ce Monsieur Ecelix, que 
fai Vhonneur de voir ? ' to which he replied in the 
affirmative. I then said, ' Je m'appelle Charles Sumner' 
His reply convinced me that I had pronounced my 
French so badly that he did not understand me, for 
he inquired if I had seen Mr. Sumner lately. Then 
ensued a series of contretemps. He did not speak a 
word of English ; and my French was no more fit for 
use than a rusty gun-barrel, or than the law of a 
retired barrister. Then came to our assistance his 
sister. . . . She knew English so as to speak it pretty 
well, though rather painfully." With her, as inter- 
preter, he made himself known to his host, whose 
ignorance of English, and Sumner's of French, made 
intercourse for the time being between them better 
' honored in the breach than in the observance.' 

A week later, however, he dined with M. Fcelix, 
when being appealed to with regard to the Constitu- 
tion of the United States, etc., the young American 
threw himself upon his little knowledge of French to 
learn that his labor was not in vain. "I felt con- 
scious of continual blunders," he records afterward 
in his journal ; " but I also felt that I was under- 


stood, so that I was making language serve its 
principal purpose, namely, to convey thought. I 
often spoke little better than gibberish, but still I 
spoke on. This was a triumph to me, and I began 
to feel, for the first time, that I was gradually acquir- 
ing the language." French was an indispensable 
instrument in the prosecution of his studies, and to 
its acquisition he bent his first two months in Paris 
and all the concentration of his energies. Never was 
his industry greater, and never, perhaps, was it more 

The first time that he attended a lecture at the Ecole 
de Droit, he was unable to understand a single sentence. 
But in less than three weeks afterward, so successfully 
had they been employed, that he was able to follow 
the lecturer through the largest portion of his lecture. 
In six weeks he was able to converse in the language, 
and at the expiration of three months was competent 
to assume the role of interpreter in judicial proceed- 
ings in which a compatriot figured. 

During this period, while struggling with the French 
tongue, he was making daily accretions to the stores 
of his knowledge in the famous schools of Paris, where 
he listened to nearly two hundred lecturers not alone 
on his favorite subjects of jurisprudence, history, and 
belles lettres, but also on science and philosophy. 
Paris with her thousand and one attractions and 
opportunities to the general student, lay spread out 
at the feet of the young scholar — her ancient build- 
ings and landmarks; her picture-galleries, and monu- 
ments; her public hospitals and charities; her courts, 
churches, and theatres; her celebrated men, legisla- 
tors, litterateurs, and savants; her brilliant society and 



salons — in short, all her large, cosmopolitan life and 
human point of view. No one of which escaped the 
eager, indefatigable, all-devouring mind of Sumner. 

To Hillard, just three months after his departure 
from New York, he wrote : " I shall stay in Paris till 
the middle of April; I find ten times as much here to 
interest me as I anticipated. The lectures, the courts, 
the arts, — each would cousumeayear — to say nothing 
of the language which I am trying after very hard." 
To Dr. Lieber : " All that you have promised for 
me in Europe has been more than realized. I have 
seen new lives; and the life of life seems to have burst 
upon me. Cicero could hardly have walked with 
a more bounding and yet placid joy through the 
avenues of his Elysium, and conversed with Scipio 
and Laelius, than I, a distant American, of a country 
which has no prescription, no history, and no associa- 
tion, walk daily in the places which now surround 

May 21, he wrote Judge Story : " Still in Paris, and 
still longing to stay here. I have promised many 
persons that I will return, and I must return. I find 
myself on a track which no American, perhaps no 
Englishman, has ever followed. I wish to master the 
judicial institutions of this great country; and for this 
purpose to talk with the most eminent judges, lawyers, 
and professors, and to get their views upon the actual 
operation of things. How I shall use the materials I 
may collect remains to be seen, whether in a work 
presenting a comparative view of the judicial institutions 
of France, England, and America, particularly with a 
view to the theory of proofs and the initiation of 
causes, I cannot tell ; but certainly there is a vast 


amount of valuable information which I may harvest 
in future years. In collecting this information, I see 
before me the clear way of doing good and gratifying 
a just desire for reputation." 

These opportunities and experiences, highly prized 
as they were by him (Sumner), could not blind him to 
the merits of America. " I have never felt myself so 
much an American," he wrote Judge Story, " have 
never loved my country so ardently, as since I left it. 
I live in the midst of manners, institutions, and a form 
of government wholly unlike those under which I was 
born ; and I now feel in stronger relief than ever the 
superior character impressed upon our country in all 
the essentials of happiness, honor, and prosperity. I 
would not exchange my country for all that I can 
see and enjoy here. And dull must his soul be, un- 
worthy of America, who would barter the priceless 
intelligence which pervades his whole country, the 
universality of happiness, the absence of beggary, the 
reasonable equality of all men as regards each other 
and the law, and the general vigor which fills every 
member of society, besides the high moral tone, and 
take the state of things which I find here, where 
wealth flaunts by the side of the most squalid poverty, 
where your eyes are constantly annoyed by the most 
disgusting want and wretchedness, and where Amer- 
ican purity is inconceivable." 

But if months in the French metropolis could not 
blind the young American to the merits of his country, 
neither could they hide from him her one great sin. 
The national skeleton haunted Sumner in the gay and 
brilliant centre of European life. Slavery was an evil 
whose astral form had an uncomfortable way of 



appearing to Americans in all parts of the world. 
Wherever they traveled in the Old World, there, 
sooner or later, they were sure to encounter the 
ghost of the Republic's murdered Banquo. The 
noise of the fierce struggle in Congress over the right 
of petition reached across the waters, and the tyranny 
of the slave-power aroused his indignation, as wit- 
ness this word to Hillard: " Why did the Northern 
members of Congress bear the infamous bullying of 
the South? Dissolve the Union I say." 

Willy-nilly he was forced to reflect upon the subject 
of slavery at home. He was forced to listen to the 
reflections of others on the same subject also. He 
calls on Sismondi, the historian of the " Italian Re- 
publics," and lo! Sismondi proceeds to speak at length 
and with ardor on that theme. Sismondi is a thorough- 
going Abolitionist, and is astonished that America 
does not profit from the experience of other nations 
"and eradicate slavery, as has been done in the civil- 
ized parts of Europe." 

In Paris, Sumner meets a South Carolina slave- 
holder, who is nevertheless opposed to the peculiar 
institution, " and believes it can be and ought to be 
abolished." Besides these lessons in liberty the young 
scholar received his first practical ones in human 
equality and fraternity. It was while attending the 
lectures of De Gerando and Rossi in the Ecole de 
Droit, that Sumner noticed among the audience two 
or three colored pupils " dressed quite a la mode, and 
having the easy, jaunty air of young men of fashion, 
who were well received by their fellow-students. 
They were standing in the midst of a knot of young 
men, and their color seemed to be no objection to 


.hem.''' Whereupon Sumner makes this observation 
and deduction in his journal: " I was glad to see this, 
though, with American impressions, it seemed very 
strange. It must be, then, that the distance between 
free blacks and the whites among us is derived from 
education, and does not exist in the nature of 

After a residence of five months, Sumner left Paris 
and passed over to London. In anticipation of which 
he wrote Judge Story in May: "I leave Paris with 
the liveliest regret, and feeling very much as when I 
left Boston, with a thousand things undone, un- 
learned, and unstudied which I wished to do, to learn, 
and to study. I start for England, and how my soul 
leaps at the thought! Land of my studies, my thoughts, 
and my dreams ! There, indeed, shall I ' pluck the 
life of life.' Much have I enjoyed and learned at 
Paris, but my course has been constantly impeded 
by the necessity of unremitted study. The language 
was foreign, as were the manners, institutions, and 
laws. I have been a learner daily ; I could under- 
stand nothing without study. But in England every- 
thing will be otherwise. The page of English history 
is a familiar story, the English law has been my de- 
voted pursuit for years, English politics my pastime, 
and the English language is my own. I shall thereat 
once leap to the full enjoyment of all the mighty in- 
terests which England affords, and I shall be able to 
mingle at once with its society, catch its tone, and 
join in its conversation, attend the courts, and follow 
all their proceedings as those at home. Here, then, is 
a pleasure which is great almost beyond comparison, 
— greater to my mind than anything else on earth, 



except the consciousness of doing good ; greater than 
wealth and all the enjoyments which it brings." 

Delightful as was England in anticipation, England 
in reality far exceeded it. It was impossible for 
Sumner to have foreseen what was in store for him. 
Never before had an American been so cordially re- 
ceived, been the recipient of attentions so universal 
and distinguished from the upper classes of British 
society, as made the young scholar's sojourn in the 
United Kingdom one round of opportunities and suc- 
cesses. Not even Everett, Ticknor, Adams, Long- 
fellow, Motley, and Winthrop in the maturity of their 
fame were so lionized as was their young and un- 
known compatriot. 

He averaged at least five invitations a day, was ad- 
mitted as a foreign visitor into four of the London 
clubs, was welcomed with open arms by bench and 
bar, by the foremost men of letters, science, and 
philosophy, by the leading clergymen and statesmen 
of the land. So extraordinary was the demand for 
his company at dinners, that in some instances it 
could only be obtained by engagements ten days in 
advance. Indeed, "his popularity in society became 
justly so great and so general," some one has re- 
marked, "that his friends began to devise what circle 
there was to show him which he had not yet seen, 
what great house that he had not yet visited." 

It was even so, for Sumner was an honored guest 
at most of the country-seats of England and Scot- 
land. He was welcomed by Whigs and Tories with 
equal cordiality into their households. He traveled 
the circuits, as the companion of judges, like Denman, 
Vaughan, Parke, and Alderson, and of leaders of the 



bar, like Follet, Talfourd, Wilde, and Rolfe. He met 
on familiar footing such luminaries of the world of 
letters as were Hallam, Grote, Macaulay, and Landor. 
Carlyle, whom he visited and heard lecture, seemed 
to him " like an inspired boy," so galvanic were the 
thoughts which came from him couched in a style 
grotesque and intense in the highest degree. On re- 
marking to Lord Jeffrey that Carlyle had very much 
changed his style since he wrote his article on Burns, 
the great critic replied, "Not at all; I will tell you 
why that is different from his other articles : I altered 


With Wordsworth, whom he also visited, he was 
quite charmed, so simple, graceful, and sincere were 
his manners and conversation. " I felt that I was con- 
versing with a superior being," Sumner wrote Hil- 
lard ; "yet I was entirely at my ease." The poet 
spoke warmly on two subjects — slavery and copy- 
right. Very different were our young traveler's im- 
pressions of another great man whom he also visited, 
viz., Lord Brougham. " I am almost sorry that I 
have seen Lord B.," he wrote Hillard, "for I can no 
longer paint him to my mind's eye as the pure and 
enlightened orator of Christianity, civilization, and 
humanity. I see him now, as before, with powers 
such as belong to angels : why could I not have found 
him with an angel's purity, gentleness, and simplicity ? 
I must always admire his productions as models of 
art ; but I fear that I shall distrust his sincerity, and 
the purity of his motives." Sumner's failing faith in 
this unlovely and extraordinary man was not checked 
by the discovery, made at his own table, that he was 
addicted to the vulgar vice of swearing to an unparal- 



leled extent. " I have dined in company nearly 
every day since I have been in England," Sumner re- 
marked in one of his letters, " and I do not remember 
to have met a person who swore half so much as Lord 
Brougham — and all this in conversation with an 
aged clergyman! " 

Sidney Smith's conversation Sumner found " in- 
finitely pleasant, and instructive, too," while that of 
Macaulay he set down as " rapid, brilliant, and power- 
ful ; by far the best of any in the company, though 
Mr. Senior was there, and several others of no mean 
powers." But Jeffrey, who " pleases by the alternate 
exercise of every talent, at one moment by a rapid ar- 
gument, then by a beautiful illustration, next by a 
phrase, which draws a whole thought into its power- 
ful focus, while a constant grace of language and 
amenity of manners, with proper contributions from 
humor and wit, heighten these charms," he pits 
against the world of conversationalists. 

Sumner notes in one of his letters a somewhat curi- 
ous and questionable custom which obtains in Eng- 
land in connection with card-playing. " I have found 
it universal in England," he wrote Hillard, "to play 
for money ; sober persons make the sum sixpence 
on each point — a term which I do not understand, 
though I have gained several points, I have been 
told. I played one evening with Lord Fitzwilliam 
as my partner ; and we won between us about a 
pound, which was duly paid and received." Another 
evening he plays with the young Scarborough and De 
Manley and a clergyman, when he is again successful, 
and the clergyman pays him five shillings ! All this 
was very distasteful to his Puritan prejudice against 



cards at their best estate. But, since he was in Rome, 
he fell into accord, socially speaking, with what was 
lawful for Romans to do, asking no questions for con- 
science sake. Quite unlike the usage in this coun- 
try, man and wife, when playing cards in England, 
are always partners, because, as Lord Fitzwilliam 
observed within Sumner's hearing, " they would gain 
nothing; it would do a man no good to win from his 
wife." And Lord Fitzwilliam, the young Puritan 
tolerantly remarked, " is a person of the greatest pur- 
ity of character, and religious feeling." 

The young scholar's life was full to overflowing 
with the most interesting experiences. Existence 
was a gold goblet, brimming with the juices of a 
thousand vineyards and delights. Wherever he 
turned, his eyes fell upon wide, illuminated pages of 
human life, and, wherever he listened, voices of a 
great and glorious past ravished his intellect. His joy 
was supreme, complete, as he stood before those ar- 
chitectural mountains of the north and of the south 
of England, Durham and Salisbury cathedrals. " My 
happiest moments in this island," he wrote Hillard 
from Fairfield Lodge, near York, " have been when I 
saw Salisbury and Durham cathedrals. Much hap- 
piness have I enjoyed in the various, distinguished, 
and interesting society, in which I have been per- 
mitted to mingle ; but greater than all this was that 
which I felt, when I first gazed upon the glorious 
buildings I have mentioned. Then it was that I was 
in communion with no single mind — bright and 
gifted though it be — but with whole generations. 
Those voiceless walls seemed to speak ; and the 
olden time, with its sceptred pall, passed before me. 



Oh! it was with a thrill of pleasure that I looked from 
the spire of Salisbury, and wandered among the 
heavy arches of Durham, which I can never forget." 

He spent a part of the Christmas holidays of 1838 
at Milton Park with Lord Fitzwilliam, and there par- 
ticipated in the English sport of fox-hunting for the 
first time. He sent to Hillard a graphic description 
of one of these performances, and of his own hair- 
breadth escapes. " The morning after my arrival," 
he writes, " I mounted at half-past nine o'clock a 
beautiful hunter, and rode with Lord Milton about 
six miles to the place of meeting. There were the 
hounds and huntsmen and whippers-in, and about 
eighty horsemen, — the noblemen and gentry and 
clergy of the neighborhood, all beautifully mounted, 
and the greater part in red coats, leather breeches, 
and white top boots. The hounds were sent into the 
cover, and it was a grand sight to see so many hand- 
some dogs, all of a size, and all washed before com- 
ing out, rushing into the underwood to start the 
fox. We were unfortunate in not getting a scent im- 
mediately, and rode from cover to cover ; but soon 
the cry was raised 'Tally-ho!' — The dogs barked — 
the horsemen rallied — the hounds scented their way 
through the cover on the trail of the fox, and then 
started in full run. I had originally intended only to 
ride to cover to see them throw off, and then make 
my way home, believing myself unequal to the prob- 
able run ; but the chase commenced, and I was in the 
midst of it, and being excellently mounted nearly at 
the head of it. Never did I see such a scamper ; and 
never did it enter into my head that horses could be 
pushed to such speed in such places. We dashed 



through and over bushes, leaping broad ditches, 
splashing in brooks and mud, and passing over fences 
as so many imaginary lines. My first fence I shall 
not readily forget. I was near Lord Milton, who was 
mounted on a thoroughbred horse. He cleared a 
fence before him. My horse pawed the ground and 
neighed. I gave him the rein, and he cleared the 
fence : as I was up in the air for one moment, how 
was I startled to look down and see that there was 
not only a fence but a ditch! He cleared the ditch 
too. I have said it was my first experiment. I lost 
my balance, was thrown to the very ears of the horse, 
but in some way or other contrived to work myself 
back to the saddle without touching the ground 
(vide some of the hunting pictures of leaps, etc.). 
How I got back I cannot tell, but I did regain my 
seat, and my horse was at a run in a moment. All this, 
you will understand, passed in less time by far than it 
will take to read this account. One moment we were 
in a scamper through a ploughed field, another over 
a beautiful pasture, and another winding through the 
devious paths of a wood. I think I may say that in 
no single day of my life did I ever take so much ex- 
ercise. I have said that I mounted at nine and a half 
o'clock. It wanted twenty minutes of five when I 
finally dismounted, not having been out of the saddle 
more than thirty seconds during all this time, and 
then only to change my horse, taking a fresh one 
from a groom who was in attendance. During much 
of the time we were on a full run." 

Sumner's experience, anent the English custom of 
card-playing, the reader will recall, ran somewhat 
against the grain of his New England conscience. 

7 6 


The English sport of fox-hunting, though much en- 
joyed at the time, exerted, upon reflection, a sobering 
influence upon him also. " I was excited and interested 
by it, I confess," he wrote Hillard ; " I should like to 
enjoy it more, and have pressing invitations to con- 
tinue my visit or renew it at some future period. But 
I have moralized much upon it, and have been made 
melancholy by seeing the time and money that are 
lavished on this sport, and observing the utter un- 
productiveness of the lives of those who are most 
earnestly engaged in it — like my lord's family, whose 
mornings are devoted to it, and whose evenings are 
rounded by a sleep." Europe could not spoil him, or 
silence within him the still, small voice of duty and 
aspiration, President Quincy's apprehensions to the 
contrary notwithstanding. 

England, like France, failed to make inroads upon 
the simplicity of his character and manners, upon his 
loyalty to country and old friends. He remained at 
the end of this first visit to England as he was in the 
beginning of it — the same natural, genial, unaffected 
lover of learning and learned men and women. Not 
for an instant, amid all the seductions of the most 
brilliant society of the Old World, was his ardent affec- 
tion for America lessened. Not that he was blind to 
the faults of America. Indeed, from his perch across 
the Atlantic they appeared with painful distinctness 
to him. Her politics seemed petty and provincial 
by the side of the world-wide questions which 
occupied the thought and time of Europeans. 

He frankly owned that " in England, what is called 
society is better educated, more refined, and more 
civilized than what is called society in our country." 



Still he was none the less American for seeing these 
points, which put America at a disadvantage when 
compared with Europe. The true pride of his coun- 
try he perceived, as he had not before this visit abroad 
perceived it, lay, as Charles Buller put it,with all below 
the " silk-stocking classes." The American " silk- 
stocking classes " were, undeniably, not on a level 
with the " silk-stocking classes" of the mother country. 
But that it was quite otherwise with the middle and 
poorer classes, Sumner was not slow to discern. 
" The true pride of America," he wrote in one of his 
letters, " is in her middle and poorer classes — in their 
general health and happiness and freedom from 
poverty ; in their facilities for being educated, and 
in the opportunities open to them of rising in the 

As Sumner was to come into collision with 
these " silk-stocking classes " of America, it was of 
no small moment to him that he should get this 
comparative view of them at this time, see them with 
the unprejudiced eye of an intelligent and liberal- 
minded outsider. For he was at the same time and 
unconsciously emancipating his mind from the spell 
which such classes throw over individuals, the strong- 
est and most upright. Destiny had thus early dis- 
charmed for the young scholar this power — forearmed 
him against its enslaving influence. 

He was during this visit to England full of the 
most kindly offices to friends and compatriots. Now 
these friendly offices were directed to calling the atten- 
tion of English men of letters to Prescott's " History 
of Ferdinand and Isabella," then just published, and 
to securing for it an appreciative and scholarly 



review from competent hands. Now they were en- 
listed in behalf of Judge Story, getting at his in- 
stance copies of important legal manuscripts, or 
looking after the interests of the judge's fast multi- 
plying works upon the law. Or maybe they were 
addressed toward enhancing the sale or obtaining a 
publisher for someone of the many volumes from the 
prolific pen of Dr. Lieber. In fine, they and others 
found an infinite capacity of friendly service in the 
young scholar. As he himself expressed it in a letter, 
" It is not simply the seeing sights and enjoying 
society that occupy me ; but I happen everywhere 
upon people who wish some sort of thing, some 
information about something which I am supposed 
to know, who wish introductions in America, or Eng- 
land, or the like ; and, forsooth, I must be submissive 
and respond to their wishes. I assure you my tour 
has been full of pleasure and instruction ; but it has 
not been less full of work." Some men seem born to 
serve their fellows, and Charles Sumner was un- 
doubtedly of this class. 

He performed for the United States a noteworthy 
service at this period. The controversy growing out 
of the conflict of claims in relation to the boundary 
line between the possessions of Great Britain and 
those of the American Republic, and known as the 
" Northeastern boundary," or " Maine disturbances," 
took on, while Sumner was in England, a rather 
bellicose tone. The State of Maine, a part of whose 
territory was in dispute, was particularly belligerent, 
having erected and garrisoned a series of forts along 
her frontier line to defend her title. Her chief 
executive was, besides, a rash and hot-headed coun- 


selor, with whose intemperate message on the ques- 
tion Sumner was not a little disgusted. When he 
read " the undignified, illiterate, and blustering 
document " of this American official, he confessed to 
Hillard, " I felt ashamed of my country." 

But if Sumner disapproved of the Maine method 
of settling a grave international dispute, he by no 
means disapproved of the claims of his country touch- 
ing the Northeastern boundary line. Indeed, when 
in Paris the second time, he prepared, at the request 
of the United States Minister to France, General 
Lewis Cass, a clear and elaborate statement of the 
American case, which was published in Galignani' s 
Messenger, and produced a highly favorable impres- 
sion upon the thinking people of America and in 
England. Professor Greenleaf was delighted with it, 
thought that the document entitled the author to " a 
secretaryship of legation." Edward Everett was 
hardly less appreciative of the public service rendered 
by the young scholar, while Robert Ingham, English- 
man though he was, viewed the argument as "con- 
clusive " against the position of Great Britain in the 

The possibility of war between England and the 
United States excited in Sumner the most painful 
emotions, and strengthened undoubtedly his growing 
opposition to the arbitrament of the sword in the 
settlement of differences between nations. Writing 
Lord Morpeth concerning his own apprehensions in 
this regard, and of his reliance upon the deep love to 
England of the educated classes of the Union to 
avert an actual outbreak between the two countries, 
Sumner said : " Still it is a dreadful thing to enter- 



tain the idea of the possibility of such a war, the most 
fratricidal ever waged. My own heart is so bound 
up in England, while as to a first love I turn to my 
own country, that I cannot forbear writing you as I 
do. You can do much in your high place, and with 
your great influence, to avert such a calamity ; and I 
shall always look to you as one of the peace-preserv- 
ers. For myself I hold all wars as unjust and un- 
christian ; I should consider either country as com- 
mitting a great crime that entered into war for the 
sordid purpose of securing a few more acres of land." 
The human question was plainly transcending in the 
mind of Sumner all narrower questions of race and 
country, thanks to the human love which welcomed 
him everywhere in England as a brother. 

After a sojourn of nine months in England, Sumner 
recrossed the channel to France and passed four in- 
teresting weeks in Paris, where he found Lord 
Brougham and other friends, French, English, and 
American, with whom he renewed old acquaintances. 
Paris was as gay and fascinating as ever. He rejoiced 
afresh in the beautiful city, not alone for its splendid 
sights and scenes, but for its people's palaces, for "its 
museums, stored in the halls of kings, which are 
gazed on by the humble, the lowly, and the poor." 
" I again entered the Louvre with a throb," he wrote 
Hillard, " and rejoiced as I ascended its magnificent 
stairway, to think that it was no fee-possession, set 
apart to please the eyes of royalty." Nowhere, in 
sooth, whether in England or France, was the young 
American unmindful of the situation or of the rights 
of the people. Their wretchedness depressed, their 
advancement elevated his spirits. 


In the month of May he set sail from Marseilles for 
sunny Italy, land of his studies and of his dreams. The 
happiness of our tourist may be said to have touched its 
high-water mark under skies which had once smiled 
on Virgil and Horace, on Cicero, Caesar, and Tacitus. 
Here, amid historic sites and ruins, he revived the 
glory of Augustus, the arms and the letters of Rome. 
From Naples he wrote : " How can I describe to you, 
my dear Hillard, the richness of pleasure that I have 
enjoyed ! Here is that beautiful bay with its waters 
reflecting the blue heavens, and its delicious shores 
studded with historical associations. What day's 
enjoyment has been the greatest I cannot tell, — 
whether when I walked amidst the streets of Pompeii, 
and trod the beautiful mosaics of its houses ; or 
when I visited Baiae and Misenum, and looked off 
upon Capri and Procida ; or when I mounted the 
rough lava sides of Vesuvius, and saw the furnace- 
like fires which glowed in its yawning cracks and 
seams. ... I think I do not say too much when 
I let you know that, with all my ardent expectations, 
I never adequately conceived the thrilling influences 
shed by these ancient classical sites and things. You 
walk the well-adjusted pavement of Pompeii, and dis- 
tinctly discern the traces of wheels worn into its hard 
stone; and in the houses you see mosaics and frescoes 
and choice marbles that make you start. But reach 
the Forum, and there you are in the midst of columns 
and arches and temples that would seem wonderful 
to us if found in a grand city, but are doubly so when 
disentombed in a humble town. What must Rome 
have been, whose porches and columns and arches 
excited the wonder of the ancient world, if this little 



place, of whose disastrous fate only we have heard 
an account, contained such treasures ! I do not believe 
there is a single town of the size of the ancient Pom- 
peii in modern Europe where you will find so much 
public or private magnificence, where you will enter 
so many private dwellings enriched by the chisel and 
the pencil, or stand in a public square like her 
Forum. . . . Capo Miseno is on the opposite side 
of the bay. One day's excursion carried me over the 
scene of the Cumaean Sibyl (I would fain have sent 
you home a mistletoe from the thick wood), round 
the ancient lake Avernus, even down the dark cave 
which once opened to the regions of night ; by the 
Lucrine bank, whence came the oysters on which 
Horace and Juvenal fed ; over the remains of Baiae 
where are still to be seen those substructions and 
piles, by which, as our old poets said, their rich own- 
ers sought to abridge the rightful domain of the sea ; 
and on the top of Capo Miseno, in the shade of the 
vine, with fresh breezes coming from Hesperus and 
the West ; and in the ancient gardens of Lucullus I 
sat down to such a breakfast as the poor peasants of 
this fertile land could supply." 

But amid such enchanting scenery and associations 
the pure joy of the young scholar is marred by the 
presence of human wretchedness. The Neapolitan 
beggar is ubiquitous and irrepressible. " Beggary is 
here incarnate," he exclaims. " You cannot leave the 
house without being surrounded by half a dozen 
squalid wretches . . . they travel with you, and 
go into the country with you — wherever you make a 
sortie from the town — as if joined to your person ; and 
on the quays they stretch themselves at full length] 



while a hot sun is letting fall its perpendicular 

Perhaps these lazzaroni had for Sumner their lesson 
no less than the vestiges of an imposing past. Were 
they not equally with broken columns and buried 
cities witnessesto the fall of the mistress of the world ? 
How had Rome risen, how fallen ? What was the 
unguessed riddle of conduct, which turned loose upon 
her mighty power and her mighty children the all- 
devouring Sphinx of the moral law? Did not these 
beggarly Neapolitans show that the soul that sinneth, 
whether social or individual, surely dies ? Ah ! sin 
was the destroyer, sin brought the men and their 
monuments together into the dust. And these repul- 
sive creatures, what were they but the gibbering 
ghosts of a once tremendous race, wandering wretched 
amid scenes of past greatness and glory, for the 'iving 
a dreadful monition to the strength of human folly 
and iniquity ? Yes, to the young American, they, 
too, held a lesson, a lesson of the gravest moment to 
his far-away country, where, meanwhile, was fiercely 
enacting the supreme tragedy of freedom, of national 
folly and iniquity. 

But the scholar proves too strong for the moralist 
amid the eloquent remains of the Eternal City. Voices 
are ringing in his ears, but they are voices of sages 
and statesmen, poets, orators, and historians. To his 
scholar's soul the present has become the past, the 
past the present. Rome reigns again on her seven 
hills, Horace sings, Cicero fulmines, Augustus mounts 
the steps to the Capitol. The dreams of his boyhood 
and manhood have at last come to pass. 

He is in a state of constant delight. For he has 

8 4 


" passed through dirty Capua (shorn of all its soft 
temptations) ; with difficulty found a breakfast of 
chocolate and bread where Hannibal's victorious 
troops wasted with luxury and excess ; enjoyed the 
perfume of the orange and lemon trees that line the 
way in the territories of Naples; at midnight awoke 
the last gendarme of his Neapolitan Majesty, who 
swung open the heavy gates through which we 
entered the territories of the Supreme Pontiff ; rode 
all night; crossed for twenty-eight miles the Pontine 
marshes ; and at length, from the heights of Alba, 
near the tomb of the Curiatii, descried the dome of 
St. Peter's and Rome!" 

He opens and reads a letter from home "on the 
Capitoline Hill, with those steps in view over which 
the friars walked while Gibbon contemplated; the 
wonderful equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius 
before me ; while thickening about in every direc- 
tion were the associations of Old Rome." Ah what 
joys opened to him in Rome ! " Art in these noble 
galleries, and antiquity in these noble ruins," he 
wrote, "afford constant interest. To these and to 
Italian literature I have given myself here. Painting 
I have studied in the works of the masters before me, 
and in the various books in which their lives and 
merits are commemorated; and I have not contented 
myself by simply seeing and looking upon the ancient 
remains that have been preserved to us." No, he 
reads Horace in the very Tibertine grove, celebrated 
by the exquisite genius of the poet, and feels on the 
spot the felicity of the verses. 

For four July days Sumner and George W. Green, 
the then scholarly American Consul at Rome, were 



the guests of Franciscan friars at the Convent of 
PaJazzuola, " on the ancient site of Alba Longa — ■ 
of which scarcely the least trace is now to be found," 
the former wrote descriptively to Hillard — " and 
overlooks the beautiful Alban Lake. No carriage 
can approach within two miles on either side, and it 
is surrounded by precipices and almost impenetrable 
forests. I do not remember ever to have seen a more 
lovely and romantic situation. Here we read the 
poets, chat with the fathers, ramble in the woods, and 
bathe in the clear waters. The scene is so like a pic- 
ture, that I sometimes look to see Diana in full chase 
with her nymphs about her." 

To Longfellow he wrote, touching the sort of 
reception which awaited Felton, who was then 
expecting to visit Europe soon : " The cellar should 
send up its richest treasures — cellar, did I say ? The 
grottos shall afford their most icy wines ; and with 
him we will try to find, amidst these thick woods and 
precipitous descents, some remains of that noble city 
which was so long a match for Rome. In our garden 
we will show him a tomb with the fasces still boldly 
visible, where reposes the dust of a consul of the 
Republic ! " While to Professor Greenleaf he wrote 
from his monastic retreat: " In the background is the 
high mountain which was once dedicated to Latial 
Jove, to whom Cicero makes his eloquent appeal in 
the oration for Milo ; and on one side clearly dis- 
cernible from my windows, is Tusculum, the favorite 
residence of the great Roman orator." 

That, indeed, was a change for Sumner, from 
England to Italy. In the one country he existed 
mainly in the present, touching wherever he turned 



the living thought of living minds in a living society 
and civilization. From every direction life pressed 
around him, strong and restless as the sea which girts 
the island home of the English people. There he 
spoke a living language, studied living laws and 
institutions, scanned the pages of a living literature, 
pondered living problems in conduct. But in Italy, 
he dwelt mainly in the past, touched elbows with the 
dead, lived and moved in the fair and stately world 
of books. 

His industry was astonishing, his achievement pro- 
digious. He mastered the Italian language, and ex- 
plored the enchanted land of Italian literature from 
Dante to Alfieri. His days are devoted to these literary 
excursions. They begin about half past six o'clock in 
the morning and continue, with but a slight intermis- 
sion for breakfast at ten, until between five and six in 
the afternoon, when he dresses for dinner, which con- 
sists usually of fruits, salads, and wine, spread under a 
mulberry tree in a garden. By this time his friend 
Green calls for him, and together they sally forth on 
a quest of discovery within or without the walls of 
Rome. Many an hour the friends, seated "upon a 
broken column, or a rich capital in the Via Sacra, or 
the colosseum," have " called to mind what has passed 
before them, weaving out the web of the story they 
might tell." Then Sumner returns to his readings — 
and what readings they are, to be sure — of Dante, 
Tasso, and Ariosto ; of Petrach, Bocaccio, and Machi- 
avelli; of Alfieri, Guicciardini, Niccolini, Romagnosi, 
Manzoni — in fine, these readings extend through a 
long list of those works of genius, which comprise the 
literature of modern Italy, Indeed, he has studied 



to such purpose, that, after a residence of four months 
in Italy, he is able to write a friend that " there is no 
Italian which I cannot understand without a diction- 
ary ; there is hardly a classic in the language of 
which I have not read the whole, or considerable 
portions. I understand everything that is said in a 
coach ; can talk on any subject" with such facility, 
notwithstanding mistakes, that even in French-speak- 
ing Milan all the valets and waiters address him as if 
to the manner born ! 

During Sumner's residence in Italy he met and 
greatly admired three American sculptors, then doing 
capital work there, viz., Greenough, Powers, and 
Crawford, between the latter of whom and the young 
scholar there sprang up a lifelong friendship. Craw- 
ford was, at the time of Sumner's visit, pursuing his 
art in poverty and obscurity. He was sorely in need 
of just such an appreciative friend as Sumner speedily 
proved himself to be. Indeed, it was mainly due to 
his ardent representations to friends at home, that the 
genius of Crawford was brought to the notice of 
America and the world, almost immediately after 
this visit to Rome. In his behalf Sumner promptly 
enlisted the interest of his fellow-members of the 
" Five of Clubs," together with that of Everett, Pres- 
cott, and Ticknor. 

To Hillard he wrote: "Crawford is now model- 
ing an ' Orpheus Descending Into Hell.' 1 The figure 
is as large as life. He has just charmed with his 
lyre the three-headed dog, and with an elastic step is 
starting on the facile descent : Cerberus is nodding 

> Now in the Museum of Fine Arts at Boston. 



at his feet. The idea is capital for sculpture, and 
thus far our countryman has managed it worthily. 
It is without exception the finest study I have seen in 
Rome, and, if completed in corresponding style — 
and I do not doubt that he will do this — will be one of 
the most remarkable productions that has come from 
an artist of his years in modern times. Crawford is 
poor, and is obliged to live sparingly, in order to con- 
tinue his studies. If his soul were not in them, I think 
he would have abandoned them long ago. Strange 
to say, his best orders come from foreigners — Eng- 
lish and Russians. Let him once have a good order 
from some gentleman of established character, and let 
the work be exhibited in America, and his way will 
be clear. Orders will then come upon him as fast as 
he can attend to them. ... It was the case with 
Greenough. Cooper saw him, was pleased with him, 
and gave him an order for his bust; this he executed 
finely. Cooper then ordered a group, which was the 
' Chanting Cherubs,' and gave Greenough the priv- 
ilege of exhibiting it in the principal cities. From 
th-at moment his success was complete. Before, he 
had been living as he could; not long after, he was 
able to keep his carriage. ... In the matter of 
this letter I feel a sincere interest, because the artist 
is young, amiable, and poor; and, benefiting him, 
you will be sowing the seed, which will ripen to the 
honor of our country." 

This amor patriae of the young scholar, whom Presi- 
dent Quincy was afraid that Europe would spoil, 
crops out with no little prominence, when he com- 
pares Greenough with his European contemporaries. 
From Florence he writes Green at Rome : " Green- 



ough I like infinitely. He is a person of remarkable 
character every way — with scholarship such as few 
of our countrymen have; with a practical knowledge 
of his art, and the poetry of it; with an elevated tone 
of mind that shows itself in his views of art, and in 
all his conversation. I am firmly convinced that he 
is a superior person to any of the great artists now 
on the stage. I have seen something, you know, of 
Chantrey in England, David in France, and those 
English fellows at Rome. As men — as specimens of 
the human race to be looked up to and imitated — 
they are not to be mentioned in the same breath 
with our countryman. Three cheers for the stripes 
and stars ! " 

Of the future author of the " Greek Slave " Sumner 
writes : " I have seen a good deal of Powers. He is 
very pleasant and agreeable. His busts are truly 
remarkable, close likenesses, without coarseness and 
vulgarity. ... I asked Greenough if he thought 
Powers could make a young Augustus. * If he had a 
young Augustus to sit to him,' was the reply." 

Sheriff Sumner passed away while his son was 
abroad. The mournful tidings reached Charles in 
Italy, and cast a gloom over his otherwise delightful 
visit. There was no reason why this event should 
hasten his return home, and his family so advised 
him. The sheriff had left his widow and children 
in easy circumstances, with little to do, besides the 
purely formal proceedings connected with the ad- 
ministration of his estate. Nevertheless, Sumner 
was keenly solicitous about the welfare of his younger 
brother and sisters. The nature of this solicitude he 
reveals to Htllard. " It is of the education of my 

9 o 


younger brother and sisters that I most think," he 
wrote ; " and I wish I were at home to aid them in 
their studies, to stimulate them, and teach them to 
be ambitious. I have written to my mother at length 
on this subject, for I know no one on whom the 
responsibility of their education now depends more 
than myself. I have no right to trouble you on this 
subject, but I cannot forbear saying that you would 
render me a very great service, if you would advise 
with my mother about this. ... I wish that the 
three younger children should have a competent 
French instructor to give them lessons ... in 
speaking and reading this language. ... I am 
anxious that my sisters should have the best educa- 
tion the country will afford ; this I know, their 
portion of our father's estate will amply give them ; 
and further, to that purpose most freely do I devote 
whatever present or future interest I may have in it 
. . . this may be counted upon, that, in any 
division of my father's property as regards my sisters, 
I am to be considered entirely out of the question ; 
so that, if need be, reference may be had to this 
circumstance, in incurring the necessary expenditure 
for their education. This I communicate to your 
private ear, not to be spoken of, but to be used for 
your government in any conversation you may have 
with my mother." It was ever thus with the young 
scholar, dutiful son he was always, and generous and 
devoted brother. 

From Italy Sumner passed into Germany, where 
he spent five interesting months in the study of the 
German language, laws, literature, and society, and 
where he met and conversed with the most celebrated 


people at Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Leipzig, Heidelberg-, 
and other cities, such as Prince Metternich, Humboldt, 
Ranke, Thibaut, Savigny, Raumer, and Mittermaier. 

From Berlin he writes Hillard : " I fain would rest 
here all the winter, pursuing my studies and min- 
gling in this learned and gay world. I know every- 
body, and am engaged every day. All the distin- 
guished professors I have seen familiarly, or received 
them at my own room. Raumer and Ranke, the 
historians ; of these two Ranke pleases me the most : 
he has the most vivacity, humor, and, I should think, 
genius, and is placed before Raumer here. . . . 
Humboldt is very kind to me. He is placed at the 
head of the conversers of Germany. . . . Savigny 
I know well, and have had the great pleasure of dis- 
cussing with him the question of codification. . . . 
He is placed, by common consent, at the head of 
jurisprudence in Germany, and, you may say, upon 
the whole continent." 

From Heidelberg he writes Judge Story : " I am 
here in this beautiful place to study German, before 
I take my final leap to America. Lovely it is, even 
in this season [winter], with its hills ' in russet clad ' ; 
but lovely, indeed, must it be when they are invested 
with the green and purple of summer and autumn. 
. . . I have long talks with Mittermaier, who is 
a truly learned man, and, like yourself, works too 
hard. We generally speak French, though sometimes 
I attempt German, and he attempts English ; but we 
are both happy to return to the universal language 
of the European world. I like Thibaut very much. 
He is now aged but cheerful. His conversation is 
very interesting, and abounds with scholarship ; if he 



were not so modest I should think him pedantic. In 
every other sentence he quotes a phrase from the Pan- 
dects or a classic. It has been a great treat to me to 
talk familiarly, as I have, with the two distinguished 
heads of the great schools, pro and con, on the subject 
of codification — Savigny and Thibaut. I have heard 
their views from their own lips, and have had the 
honor of receiving them in my own room." 

After an absence of twelve months on the continent, 
Sumner returned to England where he was the 
recipient of renewed attentions from the leaders in 
the British world of letters, politics, and law, during 
the few weeks which remained to him before he 
sailed for America. James A. Wortley wrote him 
on the eve of his departure : " You have had better 
opportunities of seeing all classes of society, and all 
that is interesting among us, than any other of your 
countrymen, and I trust that your experience may 
not disincline you to revisit us." Mrs. Basil Mon 
tagu wrote: "We shall long and kindly remember 
you. You have made an impression on this country 
equally honorable to England and to you. We have 
convinced you that we know how to value truth and 
dignified simplicity, and you have taught us to think 
much more highly of your country, from which we 
have hitherto seen no such men." Lady Carlisle and 
Robert Ingham actually shed tears when the young 
scholar took leave of them. Sumner landed in New 
York May 3, 1840. He was then twenty-nine years 
old, and had been abroad twenty-nine months. The 
long period of preparation was ended, and the long 
period of labor begun. Hercules has at last emerged 
from the Nemean Forest with his club. 



The great preparation has now come to a close. 
Out of the forest of Old World ideas, society, and 
institutions our hero has emerged, armed cap-a-pie 
for the labors of manhood — of life. The study of the 
law formed, in truth, but a part of this preparation. 
Its science, not its practice, excited his enthusiasm. 
He had early and instinctively turned from the tech- 
nicalities, the tergiversations, the gladiatorial display, 
and contention of the legal profession. To him 
they were the ephemeris of the long summer 
tide of jurisprudence. He thirsted for the perma- 
nent, the ever-living springs and principles of his sub- 
ject. Grotius, and Pothier, and Mansfield, and Black- 
stone, Story, and Savigny were the immortal heights 
to which he aspired. He had neither the tastes nor 
the talents tc emulate the Erskines or the Choates of 
the bar. 

His vast readings in the field of history and liter- 
ature contributed also to his splendid outfit. So, too, 
his wide contact and association with the leading 
spirits of the times. All combined to teach him to 
know himself, and the universal verities of man and 
society — to distinguish the enduring substance of life 
from its merely accidental and evanescent phases 
and phenomena. He had proved himself an apt 



disciple, had laid up in his soul the grand lessons of 
the book of truth. 

He found abroad what he had found at home, the 
same open page of this book — man everywhere, hu- 
man society, human thoughts, human strivings. 
Beneath differences of languages, governments, man- 
ners, customs, religions, he discerned the human prin- 
ciple and passion, which make all races kin, all men 
brothers. In strange and distant lands he had found 
the human heart with its beatitudes, friendships, 
heroisms ; the human intellect with its never-ending 
movement and progress. Home he found, a common 
destiny, wherever he met common ideas and aspira- 
tions. And these he had but to look around to be- 
hold. The young American felt himself a citizen of 
an immense over-nation, a world of federated human 
hopes and interests. To Europe he had gone, him- 
self he had seen, and conquered. He had glimpsed 
the promised land of international fellowship and 
peace, had cast out of his own mind the evil genius 
of war. He returned to his country proud that he 
was an American, prouder that he was a MAN. 

He had come back determined to falsify the fears 
of friends that his long residence in Europe would 
wean him from the law, by taking up with zest and 
energy its practice, where he had dropped it more 
than two years before. But good resolutions are 
more easily formed than performed, as he must have 
soon perceived in his own case. Several months 
slipped by after his return before he was ready to re- 
sume his place in his profession. Alas ! he was full 
of Europe, her thousand and one charms and felicities, 
her antiquities, her libraries, her schools of learning, 



her art and literary treasures, and institutions, her 
brilliant society and celebrated men. These filled his 
thoughts, and, during those first months following 
his arrival in Boston, were ever on his lips. It was 
clear that he was more than ever in love with Europa. 

If Europa is irresistible, Themis is a most exacting 
mistress, who tolerates no rivals near her throne. 
She abhors a divided mind as nature is reputed to 
abhor a vacuum. Whoso would win her favors must 
devote himself, his whole self, body and soul, to her 
service, otherwise she frowns, and a frown of Themis 
no lawyer in his right mind is disposed to invite. 
Certainly Sumner was in no humor, much as he 
panted for Europa, to call down upon his head such a 
misfortune. And so at the close of the summer vaca- 
tion he took his old seat in his office at No. 4 Court 
street and waited for clients. The clients came, and 
with them the routine and drudgery of his profession, 
which he, alas, abhorred quite as strongly as Themis 
abhors a divided mind. "I found the bill of costs 
without understanding it," he once wrote a brother 
lawyer with evident disgust ; " and I sometimes be- 
lieve that it is not in my power to understand anything 
which concerns such matters." 

He had important cases intrusted to his care, the 
pleadings and evidence connected with them he p r e- 
pared with his accustomed thoroughness and indus- 
try, and at times he deceived himself into the belief 
that his affections were bound up with the stern- 
browed divinity of the law, and that he was disap- 
pointing the predictions of those people who had felt 
when he went abroad that he was disabling himself 
for the successful practice of his profession. Ah! was 

9 6 


he not content, did he not enjoy his work? Was he 
not after all going to be a success at the bar ? He 
meant to be content, he wanted to take pleasure in 
his work, he hoped to reach eminence as a lawyer. 
But it was not for him to change his mental and moral 
constitution, which mental and moral constitution, 
not Europe, unfitted him for the practice of the law. 

He worked early and late at his desk, was punctual 
and faithful in his devotion to his legal business, tried, 
in fact, to substitute industry for interest, but it was 
plain, notwithstanding his efforts that he was not 
at home in the ordinary labors of his profession. 
It was only a few weeks after the resumption of his 
place at the bar that he wrote his friend, Lieber : 
" I write you from my office, where I install myself at 
nine o'clock, and sit often without quitting my chair 
till two; then take the chair again at half-past three, 
which I hold till night. Never at any time since I 
have been at the bar have I been more punctual and 
faithful. . . . Still I will not disguise from you, 
my dear Lieber, that I feel while I am engaged upon 
these things, that, though I earn my daily bread, I lay 
up none of the bread of life. My mind, soul, heart, 
are not improved or invigorated by the practice of my 
profession; by overhauling papers, old letters, and 
sifting accounts, in order to see if there be anything 
on which to plant an action. The sigh will come for 
a canto of Dante, a rhapsody of Homer, a play of 
Schiller. But I shall do my devoir." But to do his 
devoir by one mistress while his heart belonged to 
another was not enough. In truth, during office hours 
he sometimes bestowed upon literature what was 
alone due to the law. W. W. Story, who spent two 



years as a student of legal practice in the office of 
Hillard and Sumner, recounts how the latter would 
talk to him " by the hour of the great jurists, and their 
lives, and habits of thought"; telling him, he goes on, 
"all sorts of interesting anecdotes of great barristers 
and judges. Hillard and he and I used to talk infi- 
nitely, not only of law, but of poetry and general liter- 
ature and authors, when business would allow — nay, 
sometimes when it would not allow — but who can re- 
sist temptation with such tastes as we all had ?" 

The intellect and spirit of the young jurist were 
touched to finer issues than those which are wont to 
flow from the contentions of individuals over the 
possession of some material object or interest. His 
soul hungered for the heavenly manna of noble 
thoughts, thirsted for the sweet waters of noble living. 
How, then, could he be satisfied with the wretched 
food and drink which his profession offered ? The 
practice of the law was accordingly for him always a 
" tug and sweat" — never a delight. The joy of life 
streamed over him and through him from other 
sources, from bright memories of exquisite experiences 
across the sea, from incomparable friendships at home 
with their beautiful loves, sympathies, endeavors after 
the best in the past, the present, and in each other. 

Ah! that brilliant band of American scholars and 
men of letters, how they haunt the pen which is writ- 
ing this page. What a goodly fellowship they made, 
Sumner and they! They are all gone now, but have 
left in the firmament their " trailing clouds of glory." 
No, not gone, the distant has become the near, for 
along the " corridors of time " we catch from Sumner 
glimpses of them as they were, of their fair forms, 

9 8 


accents of their golden voices. Longfellow was at 
this time writing some of his happiest verses. " The 
Psalm of Life," " Voices of the Night," " Excelsior"; 
Prescott was preparing his "Conquest of Mexico"; 
Bancroft was at work on his great " History of the 
United States "; Sparks had just published his "Life of 
Washington"; Greenleaf his first volume on the " Law 
of Evidence"; Judge Story was struggling with poor 
health and his treatise on " Partnership" ; Horace 
Mann was beginning his revolution in our common 
school education ; and Dr. Howe was just introducing 
his system for the education of the blind, and in the 
act of endowing Laura Bridgman's fingers with facul- 
ties of speech, of seeing, and hearing. 

With all of these Sumner was intimate, serving each 
in his labors, rejoicing with each in his successes. 
Sumner, after his return from Europe, was in fact one 
of the social lions of the city. The doors of all the 
best families opened to welcome him, and to shower 
upon him distinguished attentions. He was perhaps 
for several years thereafter the most popular young 
man among the " Brama Caste " of Boston. If he got 
not the bread of life from the practice of the law, he 
got it surely from this bright throng of elect spirits 
and kindred minds. He never tired of them, nor they 
of him. Sometimes in his office they and he broke 
together this food of the soul, sometimes he partook 
of it with them in their several homes. He loved all 
who were striving after excellence. They were his 
friends, they were his brothers. It was so with Wash- 
ington Allston, the artist ; with Macready, the actor; 
Emerson, the philosopher ; Phillips, the orator-re- 
former ; Felton, the scholar ; Channing, the philan- 



thropist ; and, a little later, with Parker, the militant 
preacher of righteousness. They were all his friends 
and brothers, giving to and receiving from him love 
and sympathy, as each in his own way was doing with 
his might that which was required of him. 

If he took no pleasure in the details of professional 
work, there never was a man who took greater delight 
in personal service for a friend or the public. No 
exertion seemed to him too much, no expenditure of 
time too large to make for friendship's sake, or for the 
sake of a benefaction or enterprise from which the 
people were to derive advantage, the citizenship of the 
country to be elevated, the humanity of the world pro- 
moted. An immense love of unselfish, unresting labor 
was in his heart. It was through his disinterested 
and persevering efforts that a subscription of $2,500 
was raised for the purchase of Crawford's " Orpheus " 
for the Athenaeum. This good turn was a great and 
opportune service to the artist, and in another way 
hardly less so to the city. It was Sumner who super- 
intended the unpacking of the marble masterpiece, 
and it was he who watched anxiously over it, the 
mending of it (it was unluckily broken in transitu}, 
and the setting of it up so that the interest and genius 
of his friend might not suffer in the estimation of the 
public and of the critics. 

It was he who went to the help of Horace Mann in 
the erection of a new normal school-house at Bridge- 
water, by urging the legislature to make the needed 
appropriation for this purpose, and when the legisla- 
ture granted but a half of the required sum, by rais- 
ing through private subscription and on his personal 
note the other half. 



And when his friend, Moncton Milnes, whom he de- 
scribed as "a Tory who does not forget the people, 
and a man of fashion with sensibilities alive to virtue 
and merit among the simple, the poor, and the lowly," 
was proposing "to introduce into Parliament a meas- 
ure for private executions . . . and to enforce 
his recommendation by the example of the United 
States," to whom should he turn for information but 
to the young scholar whose heart beat in unison with 
every good thought, every humane desire for the bet- 
terment of his kind, the world over? All classes of 
the community interested him, had a lien upon his 
affections and labors. There were none above his in- 
telligent criticism, none beneath his intelligent sym- 
pathy. He belonged to his friends, he belonged to 
the public even then as few men have ever belonged 
to either or to both. 

He took an active interest in the condition of those 
evil-doers of society, whose conduct has brought them 
under the displeasure of the State, and who have 
been committed to the various penal receptacles 
erected for the detention of their class. Their very 
helplessness appealed to him for wise and humane 
treatment. The humanity in him was touched by 
the humanity of the inhabitants of penal institutions. 
They were men, men who had, indeed, forfeited for a 
season, or forever, it may be, their liberties, but not 
their humanity, not their claims upon our enlight- 
ened sympathies and Christian regards. And so he 
with others pondered how to eliminate the barbarous 
elements from prison discipline, and to introduce in- 
stead a treatment firm and just, without cruelty and 
vindictiveness. His interest in the subject of Prison 



Reform was warm and rational, and his labors in its 
behalf earnest and efficient. 

It was with him during this early period exactly 
and always as Dr. Howe said in a letter written at 
this time : " I know not where you may be, or what 
you may be about ; but I know what you are not 
about. You are not seeking your own pleasure, or 
striving to advance your own interests: you are, I 
warrant me, on some errand of kindness, some 
work for a friend, or for the public. . . . You 
ought to be the happiest man alive — or, at least, of 
my acquaintance — for you are the most generous and 
disinterested. ... I love you, Sumner, and am 
only vexed with you because you will not love your- 
self a little more." 

Men are not happy because they ought to be 
happy. Human happiness hath no common receipt 
for its creation, is the product of no regulation, com- 
bination of circumstances, but, like the winds of 
destiny, it comes we know not how, or eludes us we 
know not why. Sumner, in sooth, ought to have been 
the "happiest man alive"; but, all the same, he was 
not the happiest man alive, was, perversely enough, 
far from this superlative state of felicity. For he was 
strangely dissatisfied with himself, his progress, and 
achievements. What had he after all his pursuit of 
knowledge accomplished ? What success had re- 
warded the enthusiastic study of years to become a 
lawyer ? What tangible thing had he to show for it 
all, what return of emolument and distinction was he 
receiving upon the vast capital which he had invested 
in his profession ? Nothing, forsooth, but a few pal- 
try dollars and grinding drudgery. Others, who had 



begun with him or since him in the forensic race, 
without his lofty standard of what a lawyer should 
be, without his extraordinary legal learning, were 
leaving him behind in an increasing clientage and the 
annual money value of their profession and practice. 
With a lower legal standard, and less legal learning, 
they had obtained what his endeavors had missed — 
success. Ah, and what a wizard is success ! How in 
the eyes of the world it is able to glorify vulgarity 
and insignificance, cloak crime, piece out incompet- 
ency, make ignorance blissful, popularize meanness, 
cunning, chicanery, and all manner of low and selfish 
qualities and energies. And what a fiend from the 
pit is failure ! How it is able to make virtue ridicul- 
ous, wisdom contemptible, benevolence eccentric, and 
genius itself folly. All these wonders can success, as 
a money-getter, or failure, as a money-getter, per- 
form in the eyes of the children of the nineteenth 
century. For the children of the nineteenth cen- 
tury worship but one god — the Almighty Dollar — and 
look with one accord upon Success as its supreme 

And was the universal deity and its supreme 
prophet affecting Sumner's happiness, working 
within him a spirit of unrest and discontent at the 
progress which he was making in his profession ? 
We think they were. He was ambitious to succeed 
at the bar. He, too, desired success, to build up a 
lucrative practice, to be eminent not alone for jurid- 
ical learning but for forensic eminence as well. 
Although not at all disposed to deify the root of all 
evil, he nevertheless, Yankee that he was, entertained 
a very proper respect for it as a good friend, and 


better servant. He heartily desired its company and 
more of it. And this desire was neither unnatural 
nor unworthy. It was as it ought to have been, for 
though the almighty dollar, like fire, makes a bad 
master, yet it makes, too, an incomparable servant. 
A good round fee from a client excites emotions of a 
highly pleasurable character, gratifies two of the 
most constant and powerful passions of the human 
mind — the desire for power and the desire for wealth 
which is at bottom, but a variation of the same thing 
— the passion for power. This gratification was 
denied Sumner in any measure proportioned to his 
great abilities and acquisitions. He was too am- 
bitious to be satisfied with any success which fell 
short of the first rank in the law. He aimed un- 
doubtedly to reach the top, and to stand with the 
leaders of the bar. He was not realizing these great 
expectations — had fallen short of his mark. The sting 
of ultimate failure, in those regards, and the conse- 
quent promise of a second-rate career for him in his 
chosen profession haunted him; and then, too, per- 
haps, mingling with these reflections there crept into 
his thoughts a doubt of himself, of his powers, whether 
after all he had chosen wisely when he chose the law, 
whether, in truth, he had the tastes or the talents for 
its successful practice; such thoughts assailed him 
where he was most vulnerable, and for a season made 
havoc of his happiness. 

Seeing how it was with him, Sumner became dis- 
posed to try the efficacy of a partial change. Like 
his father, he was ready to abandon a business for 
which he was not fitted, in favor of a position more 
to his tastes and better adapted to his talents. This 



was no other than the office of official reporter to the 
Supreme Court at Washington. His friend, the old 
reporter, Mr. Peters, of Philadelphia, being about to 
retire, Judge Story consulted Sumner in relation to 
the appointment, and found him willing to accept the 
office. The Judge had thoroughly tested his pupil's 
reportorial ability and had had every reason to be 
well satisfied with it. Three volumes of Judge Story's 
decisions, done by Sumner, had issued from the press, 
the third volume since his return from Europe. They 
abundantly proved Sumner's qualifications for the 
higher office, and should have, in connection 
with the Judge's indorsement, insured him the ap- 
pointment. All the same, Sumner was not appointed, 
but another gentleman. Notwithstanding, the posi- 
tion was entirely unsought by him, he was even then 
strongly of the opinion that the office should seek 
the man, not the man the office, he felt keenly the 
failure of the Court to select him. Destiny was not 
ready to send him to Washington, nor was it in her 
book to have him there in any such character. But, as 
destiny does not take her agents into her confidence, 
but sends them forth into life and its battles with 
sealed orders, how was the struggling young lawyer 
to know what was in store for him, whether weal or 
woe? The future seemed to him unpropitious 
enough. His disappointment plunged him into deep 
dejection of spirit. He had crossed into his thirties. 
The flush of youthful promise was behind him. He 
was approaching the summer solstice of middle life 
where promise must ripen into performance, for hard- 
by lies the autumn of waning life. If he looked 
around he saw all his friends in the full tide of 


accomplishment. Felton was in Harvard and at the 
head of classical scholarship in the United States ; 
Longfellow was in Harvard and at the head of the 
poets of America ; Prescott had achieved world-wide 
fame, and the leadership of American men of letters; 
Howe was winning golden triumphs in philanthropy; 
and Phillips had risen to the front rank of the then 
living masters of popular eloquence. They were all 
up and doing something, blossom in them had given 
place to rich fruit, while he was doing nothing, living 
a barren life. He fell into a state of great gloom and 
wretchedness, no longer cared to live. Giant despair 
had him fast enough in his villainous castle, where 
he has held for a season and seasons the noblest 
minds in all ages of this sunlit and storm-swept 
planet of ours. 

His friends rallied to his rescue with their sympathy 
and cheer. Cleveland, one of the " Five of Clubs," the 
reader will recall, and now under sentence of death, 
poor fellow, wrote him from Havana : " With you, 
too, dear Charley, I sympathize and mourn over your 
disappointment in the hope you had of getting the 
place which Mr. Peters has vacated. It would have 
been a delightful office for you, and I had set my 
heart upon your obtaining it. I am the worst person 
in the world to preach courage and perseverance in 
the time of disappointment, and yet I can see as plainly 
as any one the need there is of them. . . . For 
you, it seems to me, this heroism is peculiarly neces- 
sary ; not from anything in your real position in life 
which renders it so, but because you have come to 
take sad and gloomy views of life. With your aquire- 
ments and fine talents, and with the standing which 




you have achieved, the world is open before you in 
the brightest colors, if you will but see it so. Is all 
that has been said about the greatness and dignity of 
your profession a humbug ? Is the law a mere string 
of dull technicalities, or is it a field worthy of the 
greatest minds ? . . . I mourn to see by your 
letter that you have forsaken society, and that your 
mind is saddened ; because I can see as plainly as the 
day that there is no need of this." 

And Felton thus : " What right have you, dearly 
beloved Charley, to a heavy heart ? Of all the men I 
have ever known, not one ever had less real reason for 
despondency than you. I told you the other day, at 
your office, what there was in my heart. There must 
be something morbid in the views of life which you 
permit yourself to indulge. . . . To me — and I 
must think mine a healthier state of feeling — life is a 
precious gift ; and, with all the sufferings which are a 
part of its condition, something to be cherished with 
gratitude, preserved with care, devoted to serious duty 
alternating with social enjoyment and the exercise of 
the affections ; and when the time comes, resigned 
with submission to the Divine will. . . . Law and 
literature, in the highest form of both, are your chosen, 
and should be your fixed, pursuits . . . but they 
and all secular pursuits are insufficient, if you will, 
Hamlet-like, brood over the unhealthy visions of an 
excessive introspection, if you will keep out of the 
way of the possibility of the best form of human hap- 
piness." A little later, Felton remonstrated with him 
in respect of his disregard of the rules of health, for 
the state of Sumner's health was beginning to give 
his friends no little anxiety about this time. " You 



must take better care of yourself," wrote Felton. 
"You must not work at midnight. Arrange your 
hours better, divide the task among more days, and 
give the nights to friends and sleep. ... It is 
wrong to add to the inevitable sum of illness by heed- 
less and needless exposures, by striding from volume 
to volume of 1 Vesey ' ' in the mad boots.' Remember 
old Chamisso, and be wise." 

Howe from Rome added his warning note. He is 
undisguisedly anxious concerning his best-loved 
friend, who he has learned is breaking down phys- 
ically, and who he suspects is nevertheless drawing 
desperately upon his " capital of health and strength." 
Scolded the good doctor: " You may be again work- 
ing hard all day ; eating without regard to time, or 
quality, or quantity ; sitting two-thirds of the night, 
using up the whole stock of nervous power accumu- 
lated by one night's sleep, and anticipating that of 
the next by forced loans ; steaming about on your 
long legs, and running to and from Cambridge, and 
up and down Boston streets, as if your body were as 
immortal as your spirit. You may be doing all this, 
and yet I am none the less uneasy about you. You 
know or you ought to know, your constitutional pre- 
disposition ; and that the continuance of your life, more 
than that of most men, is dependent upon your treat- 
ment of yourself. I trust that you have even now 
abandoned that morbid and unnatural state of mind 
which made you careless whether you should live 
or die. . . . All this sermonizing and exhorting 
will do no good, I suppose ; but I have done what I 
could. And now if you will go on, neglect exercise, 
neglect sleep, study late and early, stoop over your 



table, work yourself to death, grieve all your friends, 
and break my heart ; for where, dear Charlie, at any 
time of life, shall I find a friend to love as I love you ?" 

All this warning, remonstrance, and entreaty fell 
upon unhearing ears. Their object came not out of 
his dejection of mind, plunged instead over his eyes 
in work, turned night into day in the excesses and 
madness of labor. He became a frequent contributor 
to the " Law Reporter," undertook to edit Vesey's 
reports in twenty volumes. The publishers con- 
tracted with him for the completion of the edition at 
a fixed time, which necessitated the production of a 
volume every fortnight for the printer. The task 
was not inspiring, involved, indeed, an infinite amount 
of the drudgery of legal composition. But Sumner 
was not a man on whom an obligation to do a thing 
at a certain time could sit lightly. He would do 
what he undertook, and more, too. And so with the 
"mad boots "of Chamisso he strode from tome to 
tome, regardless of sleep, and exercise, and of life it- 
self. Some men take to drink to drown a great sor- 
row, Sumner took to study and work to lose his. 
He went on a "regular tear," a furious debauch of 
labor at this most critical period of his development. 
On the long legs of his mind, as of his body, he 
" steamed " from labor to labor by night and by day, 
indefatigable, unresting, as if his " body were as im- 
mortal as his spirit." The thing could not last. He 
would needs " suddenly break down or up," as Howe 
put it to him. And he did. At the completion of the 
fourth volume of Vesey the crash came, which well 
nigh sent him to an untimely grave. 

For long days he hovered between life and death, 


nearer at times to death than to life. Almost all his 
friends gave him up, the doctor gave him up, all hope 
of his living seemed to have faded in the hearts of his 
family. His " constitutional predisposition " had 
come to claim him, for he appeared to be in a swift 
consumption, "galloping," some called it. Mary, his 
favorite sister, and a girl of singular beauty of per- 
son and sweetness of character, was going the same 
way. Sumner's grief at her hopeless decline was 
poignant enough. But for himself he had no care, 
no wish to live. The restless energies of his mind 
gave place to extreme passivity and indifference to 
his fate. And, perhaps, this collapse of the active 
principle of his intellect and nervous system saved 
him. In this passive and quiescent state nature took 
him in hand, stopped the leaks, repaired the ravaged 
tissues, renewed the vital functions and forces of 
mind and body. And so it happened that she was 
taken, and he was left. Slowly and reluctantly he 
crept back from the grave, and into the strenuous, 
work-a-day world of the living, to its service, and 
struggles, and also its triumphs. 

Sumner, during these early years, whatever to the 
contrary may be said of him during later ones, was 
full of what Matthew Arnold would have called 
sweetness and light in the relations of life. He was 
the soul of friendship, amiability, simplicity, and ap- 
preciation of the best in everyone with whom he was 
brought into association. There was then no touch 
of sternness and arrogance in his temper. The sleep- 
ing warrior within him strife had not yet awakened, 
and, while it slept, the spirit of gentleness and love 
ordered all his ways, breathed through all his words, 

I 10 


irradiated all his acts. He chided his brother George 
for a disposition to disparage what was not to his 
tastes. He had a penchant for politics, statistics, and 
history, and was inclined to undervalue subjects of 
study other than these, and people, however distin- 
guished, not given to them. "I like to find good in 
everything," Charles wrote him, " and in all men of 
cultivated minds and good hearts — thank God! — 
there is a great deal of good to be found. In some it 
shows itself in one shape, and in some in another ; 
some will select your favorite themes, while others 
enjoy ideality and its productions manifold. Let me 
ask you to cultivate a habit of appreciating others 
and their gifts more than you do." 

Again he goes on, "It is easier to censure than to 
praise ; the former is a gratification of our self- 
esteem, while to praise seems, with minds too am- 
bitious and ungenerous, a tacit admission of superior- 
ity. It is a bane of society, wherever I have known 
it — and here, in Boston, as much as in London — 
a perpetual seeking for something which will dis- 
parage or make ridiculous our neighbors. ... I 
do not boast myself to be free from blame on this ac- 
count ; and yet I try to find what is good and beauti- 
ful in all that I see, and to judge my fellow-creatures 
as I would have them judge me." 

And a couple of years later, from a sick couch, he 
recurred to this sin of censoriousness thus: — "Par- 
don me if I allude to the ' Galliphobia,' which you 
observed in our friend Lieber. Did you not see a re- 
flection of your Anglophobia? I think both you and 
he proceed on a wrong principle. Man is properly 
formed to love his fellow-man, and not to dislike him. 



I have always detested the saying of Dr. Johnson, 
that 'he loved a good hater.' Let me rather say, I 
love a good lover. From the kindly appreciation of 
the character and condition of nations and individu- 
als what good influences may arise ! Peace and good- 
will shall then prevail, and jealousies cease." 

The subject of peace and good-will among nations 
was now attracting a great deal of his attention and 
some of his best thought. And the more he looked 
at the subject, and the more deeply he pondered it, 
the more barbarous and unnatural appeared the war- 
spirit which dominated mankind. He himself had 
had experience of the universal love which was stir- 
ring in the universal human heart, and which the evil 
genius of war was hindering of its reign on earth. 
In the universal human sympathies and interests, 
into which he was born again, he felt, doubtless, the 
foreshadowing of the time of the new birth of 
peoples, when all men would be brothers in all noble 
endeavor and in one grand destiny, regardless of 
country, or clime, or creed, or color. And he yearned 
to hasten this golden age of humanity, when " the 
kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law." 

In the summer of 1844, he expressed himself on 
this topic to his brother George, then in Europe, in no 
uncertain tone. He denied the necessity for the 
maintenance of forts and fortifications, touching the 
world in general and America in particular. Better 
if the vast wealth, locked up in the military establish- 
ments of Europe, were devoted to enterprises of a 
peaceful character, to the building of railways, the 
endowment of benevolent institutions, the depletion 
of poverty and wretchedness among the people. And 


for the Union, it had been much better had it spent 
the public funds in supporting eleemosynary and 
educational establishments than in imitation of a 
policy which was a relic of barbarous feelings and 
practices. The government had just erected a fort 
at the mouth of Boston Harbor, which, to Sumner, 
seemed a sheer waste of the wealth expended in its 
construction. Far otherwise had it been with this im- 
mense sum had it been devoted to public charities 
and schools of learning. 

" The principles of free trade," he concludes, " now 
so generally favored, are antagonists to war/ They 
teach, and when adopted cause, the mutual depend- 
ence of nation upon nation. They, in short, carry 
out among nations the great principle of division of 
labor which obtains among individuals. It was a 
common and earnest desire of our statesmen, after 
the last war, to render our country independent, for its 
manufactures and fabrics of all kinds, of foreign 
nations. Far better would it be, and more in har- 
mony with God's Providence, if we were dependent 
upon all nations. Then would war be impossible. As 
civilization advances, the state of national depend- 
ence is promoted ; and even England, at this moment, 
can hardly call herself independent of the United 
States." Ah ! it was a noble dream which the young 
scholar dreamt, and a glorious vision which he saw 
of human solidarity and commercial interdependence 
" Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags 
were furl'd 

In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world." 

A year later Sumner gave utterance, before the 
municipal authorities of Boston on the Fourth of 


July, to a plea for universal peace which was heard 
throughout the English-speaking world. For more 
than sixty years prior to the delivery of the oration 
on the " True Grandeur of Nations," the city of 
Boston, on the recurrence of Independence Day, had 
verified the prediction contained in the imaginary 
speech of John Adams : " When we are in our graves, 
our children will honor it. They will celebrate it, 
with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires, and 
illuminations. On its annual return, they will shed 
tears, copious, gushing tears, not of subjection and 
slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, 
of gratitude, and of joy." The "copious, gushing 
tears " had ceased to flow, it is true, but in place of 
them a sorry substitute for them had come — the 
copious, gushing periods of callow young orators. 
Brag was then enthroned and offered divine honors 
and oblations in the vapid and gaudy mouthings of 
Mr. Somebody's kid-gloved son, who was incapable 
of turning the occasion to any timely and serious 
discussion of public problems. It was a day given 
up to the reign of Unreason, to the enjoyment of flash 
rhetoric and "glittering generalities." Men got drunk 
with them as the toper gets tipsy off bad whiskey 
and adulterated gin. It was an annual clearing-out 
day, a clearing-out of all the musty, shop-worn, 
moth-eaten rubbish, remnants, and accumulations of 
the American stock of self-conceit and national 

Sumner followed not in the beaten common-places 
of sixty years, when invited to be the orator of the 
city July 4, 1845, but struck boldly into a wholly un- 
trod way. Never since the institution of these an- 



nual discourses on Independence Day, it is safe to 
say, had Boston listened to an address of such sur- 
prising character and power, as the one which fell 
from the lips of Charles Sumner forty-seven years 
ago. Nothing more earnest and throbbing with hu- 
mane feeling had been uttered in the ears of city and 
country on the natal day of the nation, since William 
Lloyd Garrison delivered his Fourth-of-July discourse 
in Park Street Church, sixteen years before, on the 
subject of Slavery. They were both instinct with the 
spirit of reform, alive in every line with the radical- 
ism of the Golden Rule, and of the founder of Chris- 
tianity. And it fared with them as it had fared with 
Jesus eighteen hundred years before. Their auditors 
would have none of the radicalism of the Golden 
Rule, but shut themselves tightly within narrow, 
self-righteous, self-centred ways and inhumanities to 

It was a great theme which Sumner proposed to 
discuss, and it is but fact to say that he rose in his 
extraordinary discourse to the level of its require- 
ments, moral and literary. He pitched high the 
moral key of the oration, and sustained the lofty tone 
without a break from exordium to peroration. " In 
our age there can be no peace that is not honorable ; 
there can be no war that is not dishonorable. The 
true honor of a nation is to be found only in deeds of 
justice and in the happiness of its people, all of which 
are inconsistent with war. In the clear eye of Chris- 
tian judgment, vain are its victories, infamous are its 
spoils. He is the true benefactor, and alone worthy 
of honor, who brings comfort where before was 
wretchedness ; who dries the tear of sorrow ; who 


pours oil into the wounds of the unfortunate ; who 
feeds the hungry and clothes the naked ; who un- 
looses the fetters of the slave ; who does justice ; who 
enlightens the ignorant ; who enlivens and exalts, by 
his virtuous genius, in art, in literature, in science, 
the hours of life ; who, by words or actions, inspires 
a love for God and for man. This is the Christian 
hero ; this is the man of honor in a Christian land. 
He is no benefactor, nor deserving of honor, what- 
ever may be his worldly renown, whose life is passed 
in acts of force ; who renounces the great law of 
Christian brotherhood ; whose vocation is blood ; 
who triumphs in battle over his fellow-men. Well 
may old Sir Thomas Browne exclaim, 1 The world 
does not know its greatest men'; for thus far it has 
chiefly discerned the violent brood of battle, the armed 
men springing up from the dragon's teeth sown by 
Hate, and cared little for the truly good men, children 
- of Love, guiltless of their country's blood, whose steps 
on earth have been as noiseless as an angel's wing." 

In many ways, with amplitudinous scholarship, 
with illustrations gleaned from the whole field of 
classical and modern literature, with facts and stories 
the most apposite and thrilling, marshaled from the 
wide page of universal history, and recited with mas- 
terly skill, with energy, and splendor of diction, too, 
did the young orator attack his theme, the beauty of 
peace, and the barbarism of war. " Thus far man- 
kind has worshiped in military glory an idol, com- 
pared with which the colossal images of ancient 
Babylon or modern Hindostan are but toys ; are we, 
in this blessed day of light, in this blessed land of 
freedom, are we among the idolators ? The heaven-de- 


scended injunction, 'know thyself,' still speaks to an 
ignorant world from the distant letters of gold at 
Delphi. Knoiv thyself ; know that the moral nature is 
the most noble part of man, transcending far that 
part which is the seat of passion, strife, war, nobler 
than the intellect itself. Suppose war to be decided 
by force — where is the glory? Suppose it to be de- 
cided by chance — where is the glory? No; true 
greatness consists in imitating as near as is possible for 
finite man the perfections of an infinite Creator ; 
above all, in cultivating those highest perfections, 
Justice and Love, Justice, which, like that of St. 
Louis, shall not swerve to the right hand or the left ; 
Love, which, like that of William Penn, shall regard 
all mankind of kin. ' God is angry,' says Plato, 
1 when any one censures a man like himself, or praises 
a man of an opposite character. And the Godlike 
man is the good man,' And again, in another of 
those lovely dialogues, vocal with immortal truth : 
' Nothing resembles God more than that man among 
us who has arrived at the highest degree of justice.' 
The true greatness of nations is in those qualities 
which constitute the greatness of the individual. . . . 

The true grandeur of humanity is in moral elevation, 
sustained, enlightened and decorated by the intellect of 
man. The truest tokens of this grandeur in a State 
are diffusion of the greatest happiness among the 
greatest number, and that passionless Godlike jus- 
tice which controls the relation of the State to other 
States, and to all the people who are committed to 
its charge. But war crushes with bloody heel all 
justice, all happiness, all that is Godlike in man. 
' It is,' says the eloquent Robert Hall, ' the temporary 



repeal of all the principles of virtue.' True, it can- 
not be disguised that there are passages in its dreary 
annals cheered by deeds of generosity and sacrifice. 
But the virtues which shed their charm over its 
horrors are all borrowed of Peace ; they are the 
emanations of the spirit of love, which is so strong in 
the heart of man that it survives the rudest assaults. 
. . . God be praised that the Roman Emperor, 
about to start on a distant expedition of war, encom- 
passed by squadrons of cavalry and by golden eagles 
which moved in the winds, stooped from his saddle 
to listen to the prayer of the humble widow, demand- 
ing justice for the death of her son ! God be praised 
that Sidney on the field of battle gave with d) r ing 
hand the cup of cold water to the dying soldier ! That 
single act of self-forgetful sacrifice has consecrated 
the fenny field of Zutphen far, oh ! far beyond its 
battle; it has consecrated thy name, gallant Sidney, 
beyond any feat of thy sword, beyond any triumph 
of thy pen ! But there are hands outstretched else- 
where than on fields of blood for so little as a cup of 
cold water. The world is full of opportunities for 
deeds of kindness. Let me not be told, then, of the 
virtues of war. Let not the acts of generosity and 
sacrifice which have triumphed on its fields be in- 
voked in its defense. In the words of Oriental 
imagery, the poisonous tree, though watered by 
nectar, can produce only the fruit of death." 

The oration produced a prodigious sensation, not 
only among the audience in Tremont Temple, where 
it was delivered, but in the city also. At the dinner 
in Faneuil Hall which followed the exercises in the 
Temple, the orator was subjected to a fusillade of 



sharp criticism. The discourse provoked instant and 
wide attention in this country and in England, and 
aroused in the former, in particular, vehement approval 
and disapproval. The demand for it was so great as 
to exhaust quickly two large editions by the city. 
Many other editions were subsequently issued by 
several peace societies in the United States and in 
Great Britain. Thus it was that the oration obtained an 
extraordinary circulation, and the orator sudden fame. 
In truth, the morning after the Fourth, Sumner 
awoke to find himself famous, to find himself in a 
place among the then foremost living orators of the 
land. He had ceased to be a mere scholar and thinker, 
and had become a man of action, a moral enthusiast 
as well. The young scholar awoke besides to find 
himself at the parting of his way from that of the 
conservative, wealthy, and educated class with which 
he had theretofore associated in Boston and Cam- 
bridge. He had chosen to tread not according to 
their lead, but in the rugged path of duty instead, and 
to help humanity thenceforth bear the heavy, murder- 
ous cross of her wrongs and woes. 



During the earliest years of the slavery agitation, 
Sumner was too young to take either a very earnest 
or a very active interest in the subject. When Gar- 
rison was in jail in Baltimore, he was in college at 
Cambridge. And during the next few years he lived, 
moved, and had his being almost wholly in the bright 
and stately world of books, far away from the mad- 
ding crowd of public issues, engrossed in his profes- 
sion and the companionship of scholars and thinkers. 
But in 1835, probably directly after the great mob in 
Boston, which dragged Garrison through its streets, 
he became a subscriber to the Liberator. His father 
was the sheriff of the county of Suffolk at the time, 
and strove manfully to rescue the anti-slavery leader 
from the murderous violence of the rioters. The son's 
subscription to the Liberator was, doubtless, intended 
to express his decided disapprobation of the mob 
spirit, and his disposition to resist its encroachments 
in the interest of slavery upon the liberties and insti- 
tutions of the North. 

A year later, the reader will recall how hotly he 
resented the indignity received by Samuel E. Sewall 
at the hands af a baffled slave-catcher, and with what 
indignation he wrote his law partner, George S. Hil- 



lard, from Paris, in relation to the tameness with 
which the Northern members of Congress allowed 
themselves to be bullied by Southern representatives, 
and how rather than submit to it he was ready to 
dissolve the Union. A month before he sailed for 
Europe the frightful period of anti-slavery mobs had 
culminated in the murder of Elijah P. Lovejoy in 
the far away town of Alton in Illinois. Falling as 
Lovejoy did, a martyr to free speech and the freedom 
of the press, the tidings of his assassination thrilled 
wherever they traveled the free States with horror, 
aroused in them the keenest apprehensions touching 
the safety of those safeguards of their liberties. The 
news of the tragedy reached Boston three weeks be- 
fore Sumner sailed for Europe. He was in the midst 
of preparations to this end, and so it is impossible to 
say how much of his attention it was able to draw to 
itself. Some, without doubt; but probably not as much 
as its importance merited. It would seem from one 
of his letters while abroad that he was unacquainted 
with the details of the story. And this is not surpris- 
ing, seeing that on the very day (December 8, 1837) 
on which he left the country, occurred the great meet- 
ing in Boston called to denounce the crime, at which 
his friend Dr. Channing, his law-partner, Mr. Hillard, 
and his classmate in the law-school, Wendell Phillips, 
took leading parts. 

There was a decided change in this respect almost 
immediatly after his return to the country in the 
spring of 1840. If there were other questions agitat- 
ing the public mind then, it did not take the young 
scholar long to perceive that the slavery question was 
oi paramount interest in Congress and in the country 



at large. More and more it was sucking into its vast 
vortex the thoughts and feelings of the free as of the 
slave States. And no wonder, for the slave-power 
during this time was never more active and aggres- 
sive. One had but to look around on the everyday 
occurrences of the Republic to witness the facts of its 
fell and determined purpose to extend itself in the 
nation, to entrench itself in the Government, to build 
high above every other, the Babel of its heaven-de- 
fying pretensions, in the Union. 

While England was struggling to abolish the Afri- 
can slave-trade, America, dominated by the slave- 
power, was throwing her international influence on 
the other side, opposing with an energy and persis- 
tency, worthy of a better cause, the sublime efforts of 
English philanthropy and statesmanship to rid the 
world of that terrific scourge of the natives of Africa. 
In 1841, Great Britain attempted to enlist by treaty, 
the cooperation of the Great Powers of Europe toward 
its abolition. Four of these Powers, viz., Great Britian, 
Austria, Prussia, and Russia declared the trade piracy, 
and granted to each other a mutual right of search, 
for the more effective suppression of the traffic. The 
final refusal of France to do as much was largely 
owing to the active opposition of America through 
its diplomatic representatives at Paris and Berlin, 
General Cass, and Henry Wheaton, so completely sub- 
servient had the Federal Government become to the 
slave-power. And when England, in the determined 
pursuit of her mighty purpose to put an end to the in- 
human traffic, asserted the right of inquiry as to the 
real character of suspicious vessels sailing under the 
American flag on the African coast, the whole weight 



of the State Department of the " land of the free, and 
the home of the brave," was thrown, in the interest of 
Southern slavery, against the English contention. 

It was then, perhaps, that Sumner made his first 
essay, after his return home, against the Lernaean 
hydra, by maintaining in two able and learned arti- 
cles, the soundness of the English position of the right 
of inquiry on the coast of Africa. These articles 
appeared in the Boston Advertiser in the winter of 
1842, and received the unqualified indorsement of such 
jurists as Story and Kent. The latter considered them 
" as entirely sound, logical, and conclusive," while 
Judge Story declared that the second of the articles 
was written " with the comprehensive grasp of a pub- 
licist dealing with the general law of nations, and not 
with the municipal doctrines of a particular country." 

Hardly less heinous than the African slave-trade, 
was the coastwise slave-trade of the United States. 
All along the American coast, from the Chesapeake 
to the Gulf of Mexico, this nefarious traffic in men, 
women, and children, was pursued under the Amer- 
ican colors and the protection of the National Govern- 
ment. Of the tens of thousands of human cargoes 
thus transported, occasionally one would come to 
grief, for the traders, but joy for the slaves. Sev 
eral times were slavers stranded in the channel be 
tween Florida and the Bahama Islands, the vessels 
towed into a British port, and the slaves liberated by 
the genius of universal emancipation. Between the 
years 1830 and 1835, three such cases occurred in that 
long and difficult channel. Naturally enough the 
owners of the slaves were furious at the loss of their 
property, and, as the coastwise slave-trade was imper- 



iled by the proximity of the genius of universal 
emancipation the whole South was no less furious. 
The General Government took the matter up and made 
it the subject of diplomatic correspondence between 
it and Great Britain, demanding for the owners pay- 
ment for the slaves so lost. Great Britain did even- 
tually allow the claims upon two of the vessels, 
stranded on the Bahama reefs and towed into Nas- 
sau prior to the abolition of slavery in her West 
Indian possessions, but for a third vessel which put 
into Port Hamilton after that act she finally refused to 
pay, on the principle that slavery could not exist 
where her law existed. After the emancipation 
of slavery in the British West Indies, the air in them 
became too pure for a slave to breathe. Whereat the 
slave-power took great offense. " The principle set 
up by the British Government," Mr. Calhoun con- 
tended, " if carried out to its fullest extent, would dp 
much to close this all-important channel, by render- 
ing it too hazardous for use. She has only to give 
an indefinite extent to the principle applied to the 
case of the ' Enterprise ' and the work would be done; 
and why has she not as good a right to apply this 
principle to a cargo of sugar and cotton as to the 
slaves that produce it ? " 

But the Southern excitement, aroused by the case 
of the "Enterprise," was comparatively a slight affair 
to that caused by the case of the " Creole." It seems 
that the brig " Creole " sailed from Norfolk, Va., 
for New Orleans, with a cargo of one hundred and 
thirty-five slaves, in the autumn of 1841. When near 
the Bahama Islands, nineteen of the human merchan- 
dise, under the lead of one of themselves, Madison 



Washington, attacked and overpowered the officers 
and crew, and compelled the captain, who was 
wounded in the fight, on pain of instant death, to 
take the vessel into Nassau. This was done, and in 
due time all of the slaves were, except the " nine- 
teen," liberated, and the liberation of these followed 
subsequently upon the receipt of instructions from the 
English Foreign Office, in London, by the authorities 
on the island. 

In the struggle on the " Creole " between the nine- 
teen slaves and the crew, one of the passengers, a 
slave-trader, was killed, and the captain, first mate, 
and ten of the crew were wounded. The nineteen 
conspirators acted with singular moderation. What 
they did, they had plainly done only to obtain their 
freedom. The lives of all the whites on board were 
spared, after the capture of the brig, and there was 
no disposition manifested to interfere unduly with 
the property or persons of their prisoners. But for 
all that the South set up at once the cry of " mutiny 
and murder on the high seas," and this cry was im- 
mediately echoed by its mouthpiece the National Gov- 
ernment, through Daniel Webster, then Secretary of 
State. To Mr. Calhoun the administration did not 
display sufficient alacrity in looking after the prop- 
erty interests of its Southern masters : " He had not 
doubted but that a vessel had been dispatched, or 
some early opportunity seized for transmitting direc- 
tions to our Minister at the Court of St. James, to de- 
mand that the criminals should be delivered to our 
Government for trial ; more especially, as they were 
detained with the view of abiding the decision of the 
Government at home. But in all this he had been in 


a mistake. Not a step has been yet taken — no de- 
mand made for the surrender of the murderers, though 
the executive must have been in full possession of the 
facts for more than a month." This was by way of 
snapper to his whip, of which he was giving the 
Northern Secretary of State a premonitory taste. 
Then the slave-champion proceeded to argument. 
He did not doubt that " this was mutiny and murder, 
committed on the ocean, on board of one of our ves- 
sels, sailing from one of our ports to another on our 
own coast, in a regular voyage, committed by slaves 
who constituted a part of the cargo, and forcing the 
officers and crew to steer the vessel into a port of a 
friendly Power. Now there was nothing more clear 
than that, according to the laws of nations, a vessel 
on the ocean is regarded as a portion of the territory 
of the State to which she belongs, and more empha- 
tically so, if possible, in a coasting voyage ; and that, 
if forced into a friendly port by an unavoidable neces- 
sity, she loses none of the rights that belong to her 
on the ocean." 

When the ponderous brain of the orator of the two- 
hundredth anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims 
at Plymouth, did, however, take up the subject, " the 
apparent indifference " to the slave interests of the 
glorious Union, which Calhoun professed to discern 
in the Premier's long delay in demanding " that the 
criminals should be delivered to our Government for 
trial," was speedily and altogether dissipated by the 
pro-slavery character of the dispatch sent by him to 
Edward Everett, then our minister to Great Britain. 
And, by the way, the Secretary could not have possibly 
selected a more thoroughly loyal representative of 



the slave-power than was this same Edward Everett, 
who once unblushingly declared on the floor of Con- 
gress that though a scholar and no soldier, " there is 
no cause in which I would sooner buckle a knapsack 
on my back and put a musket on my shoulder than 
that of putting down a servile insurrection at the 

" The British Government cannot but see that this 
case as presented in these papers," so ran Mr. Web- 
ster's dispatch to Mr. Everett, " is one calling loudly for 
redress." For the "Creole" was " lawfully engaged 
in passing from port to port in the United States. 
By violence and crime she was carried against the 
master's will, out of her course, into the port of a 
friendly Power. All was the result of force. Cer- 
tainly, ordinary comity and hospitality entitled him 
to such assistance from the authorities of the place as 
should enable him to resume and prosecute his voy- 
age and bring the offenders to justice. But, instead 
of this, if the facts be as represented in these papers, 
not only did the authorities give no aid for any such 
purpose, but they did actually interfere to set free the 
slaves, and to enable them to disperse themselves 
beyond the reach of the master of the vessel or their 
owners. A proceeding like this cannot but cause 
deep feeling in the United States." The letter left 
nothing unsaid, with which even an exacting slave- 
champion like Calhoun was able to find fault. On 
the contrary, it gave him keen satisfaction and elicited 
his admiration and approval, as covering " the ground 
which had been assumed on this subject by all parties 
in the Senate " with great ability. 

But if Webster and Everett were disposed to range 


I2 7 

themselves, as servitors of slavery in respect of this 
case, their young compatriot, Sumner, was not at all 
so inclined. He took remarkable interest in the sub- 
ject, and traversed earnestly and ably the pro-slavery 
positions of the former's letter, which evoked Cal- 
houn's admiration and approval. " In the first place," 
he wrote Jacob Harvey, " England cannot deliver up 
the slaves who are not implicated in the mutiny and 
murder by which the government of the ship was 
overthrown. She has laid down a rule not to recog- 
nize property in human beings since the date of her 
great Emancipation Act. The principle of this is 
very clear. She will not in any way lend her machin- 
ery of justice to execute foreign laws which she has 
pronounced immoral, unchristian, and unjust. It is 
common learning among jurists, that no nation will 
enforce contracts or obligations of an immoral char- 
acter, even though not regarded as immoral in the 
country where they were entered into. 

" Next, as to the slaves, participators in the mutiny 
and murder. Their case is not so clear as that of the 
others ; but, nevertheless, sufficiently clear to enable 
us to see the way of settlement. And, first, I am 
inclined to believe — indeed, I entertain scarcely a 
doubt — that they became freemen when taken, by 
the voluntary act of their owners, beyond the juris- 
diction of the slave States. Slavery is not a national 
institution ; nor is it one recognized by the law of 
nations. It is peculiar to certain States. It draws 
its vitality from the legislation of those States. Now, 
this legislation is, of course, limited to those States. 
It is not extra-territorial in its influence. Our New 
England courts have decided that a slave coming to 



our soil by the consent of his master — as, for instance, 
a servant — becomes entitled to his freedom. The in- 
vigorating principle of the common law manumits 
him. It is not so, however, with a fugitive slave. 
And why ? Because the Constitution of the United 
States has provided for his surrender ; but the case 
of a fugitive slave is the only one provided for. The 
courtier of Queen Elizabeth said that the air of Eng- 
land was too pure for a slave to breathe in. I will 
say that the air of the ocean is too pure for slavery. 
There is the principle of manumission in its strong 
breezes, at least when the slave is carried there 
by the voluntary act of his owner. If I am 
correct in -this view, these slaves were remitted to 
their natural rights. They were justified in over- 
throwing by force (not mutinous or murderous, be- 
cause justifiable) any power which deprived them of 
their liberty. In doing what they did, therefore, they 
have not been guilty of any crime. They are in the 
same situation with the others who did not par- 
ticipate in the alleged murder. 

" But, in the next place, suppose we are wrong in 
this view ; suppose they were not justified in rising, 
as they did ; suppose, in short, that they have com- 
mitted the crime of murder under our laws ; still, I 
say, England will not be obliged to give them up. 
The crime will be piracy by statute, and not by 
the law of nations. Now, it is perfectly clear by the 
law of nations — and no nation has acted upon this 
rule more than the United States — that no govern- 
ment can be called upon to surrender persons who 
have offended against the municipal laws of another 
government. It is, of course, within the discretion 


of a government to surrender such offenders, but it 
is no just cause of complaint that a government 
refuses to exercise this discretion. There can be no 
doubt that England will refuse to exercise it." 

Webster's dispatch was one of the first proofs of 
his consent to wear the collar of the slave-power in 
his uncurbed and insane ambition to be President. 
It gave Sumner great offense, and he was sternly out- 
spoken against its sophistry and its " paltry, un- 
certain, shifting principles." Indeed, so marked was 
his condemnation of the letter of the Secretary, that 
to George Ticknor he seemed the only person met by 
him who disagreed strongly with it. But for all 
that, Sumner was not the only person who was 
vehement against it. Many others were vehement 
against it likewise, and among these was Dr. W. E. 
Channing, with whom Sumner was on terms of inti- 
macy. The doctor felt so warmly on the subject 
that he published a pamphlet in reply to Mr. 
Webster's pro-slavery dispatch. Sumner took the 
most lively interest in the pamphlet, which the 
Author read to him in manuscript, and submitted 
later, when set up in press, the proofs of it for his 
critical assistance and suggestions. The young 
scholar rejoiced that " such a voice was to be heard 
in the country, and to cross the sea." To his brother 
George he wrote on All Fools Day of 1842: "Dr. 
Channing has put forth a glorious pamphlet on the 
1 Creole,' in reply to Webster's sophistical dispatch. 
One feels proud of being a countryman of Channing. 
His spirit is worthy of the Republic, and does us 
honor abroad. His is a noble elevation, which makes 
the pulses throb." Over against this "noble eleva- 



tion " was seen Webster's sensibly diminishing moral 
stature, when, if ever a man had the making of a 
God within him, it was he before he had indentured 
his great intellect to the service of slavery and self. 

Writing to his brother George in the autumn of 
the same year, he contrasts Webster and Channing 
thus : " Who excels, who equals Webster in intellect? 
I mean in the mere dead weight of intellect. With 
the moral elevation of Channing, he would become a 
prophet. Webster wants sympathy with the mass, 
with humanity, with truth. If this had been living 
within him, he never could have written his ' Creole ' 
letter. Without Webster's massive argumentation, 
Channing sways the world with a stronger influence. 
Thanks to God, who has made the hearts of men 
respond to what is elevated, noble, and true ! Whose 
position would you prefer — that of Webster or Chan- 
ning ? I know the latter intimately, and my admi- 
ration of him grows constantly. When I was younger 
than I am now, I was presumptuous enough to ques- 
tion his power. I did not find in him the forms of 
logical discussion, and the close, continuous chain of 
reasoning, and I complained. I am glad that I am 
wise enough to see him in a different light. His 
moral nature is powerful, and he writes under the 
strong instinct which this supplies ; and the appeal 
is felt by the world." 

Sumner, doubtless, little dreamt that he himself 
possessed that very quality which Webster wanted, 
and which was to make him what that great man for 
lack of it could not be — a prophet. But of himself, 
as having a leading part to play in the politics of 
the country, he thought not in those days. He was 


aware of but one thing then — the increasing power 
of slavery, and in himself of an increasing hatred of 
that power. It was more and more becoming in- 
tolerable to his freedom-loving spirit. "The question 
of slavery is getting to be the absorbing one among 
us," he wrote his brother ; " and growing out of this 
is that other of the Union. People now talk about 
the value of the Union, and the North has begun to 
return the taunts of the South." And herein again 
was he the opposite of Webster, to whom the 
"glorious Union " was the Be-all and the End-all, and 
for whose preservation he was disposed to make any 
sacrifice of the claims of freedom and humanity. To 
Sumner, on the other hand, the value of a Union, 
dominated by the slave-power, did not appear so 
priceless. There were some things upon which he 
placed a higher value and which he would not pay to 
preserve it. And these were his own self-respect, 
and the self-respect of the free States, together with 
those selfsame claims of freedom and humanity, 
which Webster was willing to offer up on the altar of 
the dear Union. 

The violent scenes in Congress, which were enact- 
ing at this time, he watched with boiling blood and 
blazing eyes. John Quincy Adams was making his 
never-to-be-forgotten fight for the right of petition, 
under the very paws, within the very jaws of the 
slave-power. Whoever else of the Northern Repre- 
sentatives chose to wear the collar of the national 
tyranny, to cringe and crawl between its cruel limbs, 
to grow pliant and submissive under its brutal blows, 
not so did John Quincy Adams choose. Threats he 
answered with defiance, blow with blow, beating 



back and beating down with the iron flail of magnifi- 
cent powers the rage of his foes. The brave old 
Spartan planted himself in this pass of freedom, this 
Thermopylae of the free States, and withstood for 
almost a dozen years the Persian flood of the slave 
despotism in Congress. 

It made no difference to the veteran statesman what 
the prayer of the petition was, or from whom emanat- 
ing, whether for the abolition of slavery or against its 
abolition, or for the dissolution of the Union, whether 
from slaves or freemen, it was all the same, if for- 
warded to him, he presented it unterrified by the 
tempest which its presentation aroused about his 
head. The right he held sacred, inviolable, God- 
given, to be maintained regardless of cost and under 
all circumstances. 

In the winter of 1842, the heroic old man, true to 
his principles and purposes, presented a petition, 
signed by Benjamin Emerson and forty-five other 
citizens of Haverhill, Mass., praying for the 
immediate adoption of measures for the peaceable 
dissolution of the Union. This brave act brought the 
slave-holding hornets in swarms about his devoted 
head. A resolution of censure was introduced in the 
House against him, and supported by the most pas- 
sionate strains of Southern eloquence. But, single- 
handed, Adams met and threw back the flood. In 
close, hand-to-hand encounters he has, perhaps, never 
been equaled in our parliamentary history, certainly 
never surpassed. Quick and ferocious in thrust and 
retort, he was the terror of the South in debate. He 
was so now, driving home with savage strength 
tomahawk and knife into the foes who ventured 



within reach of either, until, baffled and defeated, 
they slunk back with their resolution of censure, 
leaving the venerable ex-President in the possession 
of his position overlooking the right of petition. 

Six years before, the slave-power in the House, 
unable to bully him into compliance with its behests 
in respect of anti-slavery petitions, had adopted its 
gag-rule: "That all petitions, memorials, and papers 
touching the abolition of slavery, or the buying, sell- 
ing, or transferring slaves, in any State, or District, or 
Territory of the United States, be laid on the table 
without being debated, printed, read, or referred, and 
that no action be taken thereon." In the interest of 
slavery thus ruthlessly were the right of petition, 
and the freedom of debate of the North struck down 
in the Halls of Congress. 

Although not approving entirely of Mr. Adams's 
manners in debate, Sumner nevertheless felt for the 
grand old champion of the right of petition the most 
ardent admiration and sympathy. Writing to Dr. 
Lieber at Columbia, S. C, in relation to the attempt 
of Southern Congressmen to censure Mr. Adams for 
presenting the Haverhill petition praying for the dis- 
solution of the Union the young jurist said : " I still 
stick to Adams; I admire the courage and talent he 
has recently displayed, and the cause in which they 
were exerted. I object most strenuously to his man- 
ner, to some of his expressions and topics, as unpar- 
liamentary, and subversive of the rules and orders of 
debate. These are among the great safeguards of 
liberty, and particularly of freedom of speech. . . . 
One of the worst signs at Washington is the sub- 
version of these rules. No personality is too low for 



that House; and Mr. Adams erred very much when 
he spoke of the puny mind of the gentleman from 
Kentucky, and when he alluded to his intemper- 
ance. . . . 

" But still I stick to Adams. His cause was grand. 
If I had been in the House, I should have been proud 
to fight under his banner. He has rallied the North 
against the South; has taught them their rights, and 
opened their eyes to the 'bullying' (I dislike the 
word as much as the thing) of the South. I wish 
you could extricate yourself from that coil." 

It was exactly as Sumner said, no personality was 
too low for that House — the Southern portion of it. 
But subsequent Houses did not stop at personalities, 
descended, in fact, to other and yet more brutal 
methods of debate. Here is an instance, illustrative 
at once of the iniquitous exactions and violence 
of the slave-power in the Government: Joshua R. 
Giddings, surpassed only by the " old man eloquent," 
in those early days in Congress in opposition to the 
arrogance and aggressions of the South, is upon his 
feet in the House, which is drawing near the end of 
its session, in 1845. He * s making a telling expose 
of the selfishness of the slave-power, and of the sub- 
serviency of the Government to its interests, citing as 
an example of the truth of his charge the case of the 
treaty of Indian Spring, by which the Government not 
only paid $109,000 to the slaveholders of Georgia for 
slaves who had escaped to Florida, but added to it 
the further sum of $141,000 as compensation for " the 
offspring which the females would have borne to 
their masters had they remained in bondage." Con- 
gress actually paid that sum, the orator stingingly 



observed, " for children who were never born, but 
who might have been if their parents had remained 
faithful slaves." 

Upon hearing this wretched chapter of the mis- 
doings of the slave-power rehearsed, Southern mem- 
bers went beside themselves with rage and flung fast 
and furious at the dauntless Ohioan coarse and 
vituperative replies. E. J. Black, a member from 
Georgia, specially signalized himself in this respect, 
to whom Giddings made a scathing retort. There- 
upon there occurred this extraordinary scene which 
is taken from Wilson's " Rise and Fall of the Slave- 
Power in America": " Mr. Black, approaching Mr. 
Giddings with an uplifted cane, said: 'If you repeat 
those words I will knock you down.' The latter 
repeating them, the former was seized by his friends 
and borne from the hall. Mr. Dawson, of Louisiana, 
who on a previous occasion had attempted to assault 
him, approaching him, and, cocking his pistol, pro- 
fanely exclaimed: ' I'll shoot him; by G — d I'll shoot 
him! ' At the same moment, Mr. Causin, of Maryland, 
placed himself in front of Mr. Dawson, with his right 
hand upon his weapon concealed in his bosom. At 
this juncture, four members from the Democratic side 
took their position by the side of the member from 
Louisiana, each man putting his hand in his pocket 
and apparently grasping his weapon. At the same 
moment Mr. Raynor, of North Carolina, Mr. Hudson, 
of Massachusetts, and Mr. Foot, of Vermont, came to 
Mr. Giddings's rescue, who, thus confronted and thus 
supported, continued his speech. Dawson stood 
fronting him till its close, and Causin remained facing 
the latter until he returned to the Democratic side." 


It was such plantation manners and outrageous 
excesses of the South in Congress, which were for- 
cing people like Sumner to think and talk more and 
more of the value of Webster's " glorious Union " of 
Northern freemen with Southern slaveholders. 

Sumner heartily approved of the anti-slavery resolu- 
tions offered by Mr. Giddings in the House, asserting 
the freedom of the slaves on board the "Creole " under 
the Constitution, and for which he received the censure 
of the House. " Thank God ! " exclaimed the young 
jurist in this connection, " the Constitution of the 
United States does not recognize men as property. It 
speaks of slaves as persons. Slavery is a local institu- 
tion, drawing its vitality from State laws ; therefore, 
when the slaveowner voluntarily takes his slave 
beyond the sphere of the State laws, he manumits 
him. . . . But suppose it were not true in point of 
Constitutional law, still Mr. Giddings had a perfect 
right to assert it ; and the slaveholders in voting to 
censure him, have sowed the wind. I fear the reap- 
ing of the whirlwind." 

Another aspect of the subject of slavery, Sumner 
had occasion to think and write upon in the winter 
of 1843. During the visit of his friend, Lord Mor- 
peth, to the United States in 1842, Mrs. Maria Weston 
Chapman requested of him a contribution to The 
Liberty Bell, the little paper published by her every 
y^ar as a sort of souvenir of the Anti-Slavery Fair of 
which she was, on the authority of James Russell 
LowelL ct the coiled-up mainspring." Lord Morpeth 
declined to discuss the question of American slavery 
on the ground that he was a foreigner. Whereupon 
the Advertiser undertook to read Massachusetts a lec- 



ture on the impropriety of her citizens doing what 
the British nobleman's foreign citizenship had with- 
held him from tampering with. Sumner took the 
matter up and replied, in a cogent article, to the con- 
tention of that paper: " First, that the opponents of 
slavery in the free States direct their exertions 
politically against this institution in States to which 
they are foreigners ; and, second, that slavery is not 
an evil within the jurisdiction of the free States, or 
of the United States, of which the free States are a 
part." Both of these assumptions, Sumner vigor- 
ously attacked, and thoroughly exposed the fallacies 
upon which they rested : 

" The opponents of slavery in the free States recog- 
nized the right of all States to establish," he main- 
tained, " within their own borders, such institutions 
as they please ; and they do not seek, either through 
their own Legislatures or through Congress, to touch 
slavery in the States where it exists. But while they 
abstain from all political action on these States, they 
do not feel called upon to suppress their sympathy 
for the suffering slave, nor their detestation of the 
system which makes him a victim. To do this would 
be untrue to the precepts of our religion, and to the 
best instincts of our nature." Then he disposes of 
the second assumption by pointing out particular 
cases to the number of nine, such as slavery in the 
District of Columbia, in the national Territories, in 
the trade between the States, on the high seas under 
the national colors, in the national Constitution, etc., 
etc., wherein the evil was " distinctly within the juris- 
diction of the United States, of which the free States 
are a part." 



"After this survey," he concludes, "it will be diffi- 
cult to see how it can be said that the people of the 
free States are foreigners, so far as slavery is con- 
cerned; or that they are laboring to produce an effect, 
without the shadow of right to interfere. On the 
contrary, the subject is in many respects directly 
within their jurisdiction. Upon the North as upon 
the South, rests the sin of sustaining it. The Supreme 
Court of Massachusetts, in an elaborate judgment, 
has pronounced it contrary to the law of nature. The 
denunciations of the first moralist of the age, and the 
pictures of one of the first poets of the age, have 
marked it with the brand of shame. More than these; 
the conscience of every right-minded man proclaims 
that it is contrary to the golden rule of justice. How, 
then, can we sustain it?" 

Among the instances enumerated by Sumner, in 
which the free States stood in intimate domestic rela- 
tions to Southern slavery, were the " laws of slave 
States affecting the liberty of free colored persons, 
citizens of and coming from, Northern States." These 
laws, in two States in particular, viz., South Carolina 
and Louisiana, were flagrant violations of the Consti- 
tutional provision guaranteeing that, " The citizens 
of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and 
immunities of citizens in the several States." The 
nullification of the Constitution in that regard operated 
with peculiar hardship in the case of Massachusetts 
and of her colored citizens, many of whom formed 
a part of her merchant marine service, and who in the 
regular course of trade on the Atlantic seaboard, had 
occasion to enter with their vessels at Charleston and 
New Orleans to discharge and receive cargoes. But 


the moment that ships having colored seamen on them 
entered at those ports, they were immediately boarded 
by the local police who seized and carried off all of 
the colored servants and locked them up in work- 
houses and jails until their vessels were ready to sail, 
when they were released and allowed to rejoin them. 
Thus were Massachusetts merchants and shipowners 
deprived by the laws of sister States of labor which 
legally belonged to them, and Massachusetts colored 
citizens of rights and immunities guaranteed to them 
by the Constitution of the United States. 

Such gross wrongs and outrages Massachusetts was 
not at all inclined to endure meekly and non-resist- 
antly, for the sake even of the dear Union. She loudly 
protested against them, and through her representa- 
tives in Congress brought them to the notice of that 
body. A committee of the House investigated the 
subject, and Robert C. Winthrop, a member of it made 
an able report in which he " put the argument of the 
Northern States," according to Sumner, "with unan- 
swerable force and distinctness." Nothing however 
was done by Congress to redress the grievances of the 
Northern States, or to vindicate the national compact, 
as the supreme law of the land. Massachusetts' mer- 
chants and colored seamen continued to be deprived 
in Southern ports of privileges and immunities 
guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the 

When Massachusetts at length became convinced 
that she could get neither from Congress nor from 
the South redress of her wrongs, she determined, as 
a last resort, to despatch agents to Charleston and 
New Orleans for the purpose of protecting her citizens 



against the violations of their rights in those cities. 
These agents were instructed to obtain and transmit 
facts in relation to the imprisonment of her colored 
seamen, and to test by one or more actions the legality 
of the local laws by which they were distrained of 
their liberty. 

It was in the year 1844 that, in pursuance of her 
resolution, Massachusetts sent Samuel Hoar and 
Henry Hubbard on this mission into South Carolina 
and Louisiana, the former to reside at Charleston, 
and the latter at New Orleans. But no sooner had 
these worthy gentlemen arrived at the end of their 
respective destinations, and communicated to the 
proper authorities their official characters and objects, 
than they found themselves the recipients of atten- 
tions, which, in sooth, they had not counted upon 
receiving at the hands of the people among whom 
they were commissioned to reside. Judge Lynch, 
they were not long in discovering, exercised in 
Charleston and in New Orleans original and appel- 
late jurisdiction in all matters relating to slavery, and 
to such accredited agents or " emissaries " as were 
themselves. A decree of this puissant functionary 
they presently saw was the supreme law of the land 
in which they were appointed to dwell. They had 
supposed, notwithstanding sundry suspicious circum- 
stances and occurrences to the contrary, that the 
Constitution enjoyed this dizzy distinction and emi- 
nence. But that, alas! was an illusion which their 
experiences rudely and abruptly dispelled. They 
were made aware in ways not to be mistaken that 
their society was not wanted, and that the sooner 
they took themselves out of the cities where they were 


appointed to reside, the greater would be their 
chances of getting back alive or uninjured to their 
homes in the Bay State. Judge Lynch had issued a 
decree of expulsion against them, and from his 
honor's decree there was no appeal in a Southern 
community. And so Messrs. Hoar and Hubbard, 
unable to resist, bowed reluctantly to the inevitable, 
and returned to Massachusetts, soberer and far wiser 
than when they left her. Soberer and far wiser was 
Massachusetts also in regard to her rights where they 
came into collision with the slave interests of the 
South. She had apparently none which that section 
was bound to respect. 

In this subject of the imprisonment of colored sea- 
men, Sumner took great interest. Replying to in- 
quiries, addressed to him by Mr. Winthrop touching 
this question, he wrote a capital letter, discussing at 
length and with much learning and force the civic 
status of the free colored people of Massachusetts 
under the Federal Constitution. He demonstrates 
that they are citizens, and that the full measure of 
their " privileges and immunities" in Massachusetts 
constitutes the exact sum to which they are entitled 
in the several States. " It is idle to reply," concludes 
his admirable argument, " that free blacks, natives of 
South Carolina, are treated to imprisonment and 
bondage. The Constitution of the United States 
does not prohibit a State from inflicting injustice 
upon its own citizens. As the Duke of Newcastle 
said, with regard to his rotten boroughs, 1 Shall we 
not do what we will with our own?' But a State 
must not extend its injustice to the citizens of another 
State, Unfortunately, the poor slave of South Caro- 



lina and the free blacks, natives of that State, are 
citizens thereof : they owe it allegiance, if a slave can 
owe allegiance. Of course, they have no other 
power under heaven, from whom to invoke protec- 
tion. But the free negro, born in Massachusetts and 
still retaining his domicile there, wherever he finds 
himself, may invoke the protection of his native 

As early as 1843, Sumner had come to entertain a 
decided repugnance to caste prejudice, the cruel off- 
spring of slavery. Writing to John Jay in acknowl- 
edgment of the receipt of his pamphlet on " Caste 
and Slavery in the Church," he observes: "Is it not 
strange that the Church, or any body of men upon 
whom the faintest ray of Christianity has fallen, 
should endeavor to exclude the African, ' guilty of a 
skin not colored as their own,' from the freest par- 
ticipation in the privileges of worshiping the com- 
mon God ? It would seem as if prejudice, irrational 
as it is uncharitable, could no further go. Professing 
the religion of Christ, they disaffirm that equality 
which He recognizes in all in His presence ; and they 
violate that most beautiful injunction which enfolds 
so much philanthropy and virtue, — ' Love thy 
neighbor.' . . . The Catholic Church is wiser 
and more Christian. On the marble pavements of 
their cathedrals all are equal ; and this church invites 
the services of all colors and countries. While in 
Italy, it was my good fortune to pass four days at the 
Convent of Palazzuola, on the margin of the Alban 
Lake, not far from the supposed site of Alba Longa. 
Among the brethren of this convent was an Abyssin- 
ian, very recently arrived from the heart of Africa, 


whose most torrid sun had burned upon him. To 
one accustomed to the prejudices of color which pre- 
vail in America, it was beautiful to witness the free- 
dom, gentleness, and equality with which he mingled 
with his brethren. His dark skin seemed to give 
him an added interest in their eyes, over his great 
claim as a stranger and brother." 

In the autumn of 1845, true to his anti-caste creed, 
and his then cardinal moral and political principle of 
the Equality and Brotherhood of Man, he declined to 
lecture before the Lyceum at New Bedford on 
account of its refusal to admit colored people to the 
lectures on an equal footing with white people. 
" One of the cardinal truths of religion and freedom," 
he wrote to the committee " is the Equality and 
Brotherhood of Man. In the sight of God and of all 
just institutions the white man can claim no prece- 
dence or exclusive privilege from his color. It is the 
accident of an accident that places a human soul 
beneath the dark shelter of an African countenance, 
rather than beneath our colder complexion. Nor can 
I conceive any application of the Divine injunction, 
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, 
more pertinent than to the man who founds a dis- 
crimination between his fellow-men on difference of 
skin." ... "In lecturing before a Lyceum 
which has introduced the prejudice of color among 
its laws, and thus formally reversed an injunction of 
highest morals and politics, I might seem to sanction 
what is most alien to my soul, and join in disobedi- 
ence to that command which teaches that the chil- 
dren of earth are all of one blood. I cannot do this." 
After this brave rebuke the Lyceum did presently 

i 4 4 


rescind its proscriptive rule, whereupon Mr. Sumner 
lectured on its platform. 

Slavery had indeed as many heads as the fabled 
Lernaean hydra, and the prejudice of color was one 
of its crudest manifestations in the free States. 
Almost universally the free people of color, in those 
States, were treated as somethiug less than human. 
In Church and State, by the highest and lowest 
classes, they were looked upon as objects, whom to 
touch socially, was degradation and defilement of 
" the vilest character. They were pariahs whom the 
meanest members of society were too high and 
mighty to recognize as men and brothers. They were 
the poor outcasts whom thieves had beaten and 
stripped of their human heritage and left helpless in 
the highway of the Republic, and whom the priests 
and Levites of the American Church and State were 
passing by on the other side. But Sumner, the good 
Samaritan, did not so, but with Garrison, Phillips, 
and the anti-slavery remnant of the North, was try- 
ing to bind up their wounds, and seeking to restore 
to them that which the inhumanity of America had 
wrested from them. 

Plainly the slavery question was attracting Sum- 
ner's attention more and more, taking possession of 
his time and thoughts, impelling him irresistibly 
away from his scholarly seclusion and pursuits into 
the open, where was raging the irrepressible conflict 
between Right and Wrong. Was Right in dire need, 
and calling for help ? Then it was not for him to be 
indifferent or neutral in such a struggle. More and 
more frequent, therefore, were his rallies to her suc- 
cor, and longer and yet more long did he remain 



fighting by her side. There now began to glow and 
flame within him a new, great purpose, a new, moraJ 
earnestness and enthusiasm. Hercules, ready for 
battle, was on his way to attack the Lerneean 




The slavery question in the United States in the 
year 1845 transcended in public interest all other 
questions. It was the one all-absorbing, all-over- 
shadowing subject in the Union. There was no citi- 
zen, however obscure, in the North or in the South, 
but was sucked into the maelstrom of the agitation 
in this year of grace ; there was none so high and 
powerful who escaped its tremendous moral and 
political suction and gravitation. All the intelligence, 
all the conscience, all the greed for power, all the 
sectional jealousies and antagonisms between the 
slave-holding and the non-slave-holding halves of the 
Republic, all the love of liberty and all the love of 
slavery rushed together in the storm of passion which 
the movement for the annexation of Texas aroused in 
the land. 

Sixteen years before, William Lloyd Garrison was 
persecuted and imprisoned by Maryland justice for 
writing disrespectfully of a fellow-townsman of his, 
Francis Todd, whose ship had taken a cargo of slaves 
from Baltimore to New Orleans. Fourteen years 
before the Texas agitation, he, the aforesaid Garrison, 
had started the Liberator, and launched the anti- 
slavery reform at the same time upon the attention of 
the country. Since that event, a marvelous change 



had passed over every part of the nation in relation 
to the subject of slavery. The small but aggressive 
sect of Garrisonian Abolitionists, with their doctrine 
of immediate emancipation, and their stern denunci- 
ations of slave-holding as robbery, murder, and " the 
sum of all villainies," had effected an almost instant 
transformation in the state of public opinion at the 
South. Not only were Southern interests and insti- 
tutions held up to public odium by the Abolitionists, 
but Southern character as well. It is not in human 
nature to be indifferent to such treatment. It drove 
the South wild with fear and indignation. That sec- 
tion metaphorically foamed with excitement, lost 
all self-control, and plunged into excesses of rage, 
which are explicable alone on the ground that it had 
suffered a sudden aberration of reason and common 
sense. It put a price on the heads of leading Abol- 
itionists, issued bulls against the circulation of Aboli- 
tion publications within its limits, subjected the mails 
to a tyrannous and irresponsible censorship, and indi- 
viduals to outrageous surveillance and barbarous 

The Constitutional provision which guarantees to 
" the citizens of each State all privileges and immuni- 
ties of citizens in the several States," was everywhere 
reduced to a nullity in the slave States. Northern 
men were presently regarded and treated precisely as 
though they were aliens and enemies instead of fellow- 
citizens of a common country. To travel through 
the South became for persons from the North, within 
a surprisingly brief space after the inauguration of 
the moral movement against slavery, as hazardous 
an undertaking as would have been for them a pas- 



sage across territory belonging to a foreign and hostile 
power. Interstate intercourse and communication 
were increasingly discouraged and obstructed. The 
slave section drew itself more and more aloof from 
its free sister, and raised higher and higher about 
itself insurmountable social barriers. 

To these signs of violent disintegration no man 
in his senses could long remain blind. The slavery 
agitation had started into alarming activity in the 
South the anti-Union-making forces of our federal 
system of government. Therefore all those material 
interests and habits of mind in the free States which 
had grown up around the Union took fright, and 
sought to check the progress of these anti-Union for- 
ces in the South by repressing the anti-slavery move- 
ment at the North. The anti-slavery movement was 
certainly not productive of domestic harmony. On 
the contrary, it was proving itself, as we have seen, a 
prodigious promoter of domestic discord. From the 
beginning, this feature of the reform aroused against 
it the powerful Union feeling of the Northern 

Attachment to liberty was with that section a much 
weaker motive of action than attachment to the 
Union. Its opposition to slavery was largely due to 
the fact that slavery had operated in the general Gov- 
ernment adversely to its interests, political and indus- 
trial, rather than through sympathy for the slave, or 
antagonism to the master-class as such. American 
liberty it ever was, not human liberty, which possessed 
the charm to stir the Northern blood. And this par- 
ticular notion of liberty included, among other things 
the well understood American Constitutional right 



of holding the African race in bondage, free from 
Federal interferance or interstate intermeddling. 

Under these circumstances and in this highly legal, 
if not highly moral view of the situation, the two sec- 
tions were in perfect accord in respect of the perni- 
cious and unpatriotic character of Garrisonian Aboli- 
tionism, and of the important consequences which 
depended upon its suppression. But where public 
opinion ends, and legislative action begins, there the 
point of coincidence between the two halves of the 
Union vanished, and sharp lines of divergence ap- 
peared. Owing to its peculiar social and political 
media, the South was able to translate its public 
opinion against the agitation into harsh and precipi- 
tate legislation. Quite the reverse was, however, true 
of the North. Its social and political media tram- 
meled and pulled it back from the enactment of 
similar repressive measures. 

The disposition was, indeed, in many instances, 
strong to do likewise, but there was a difficulty, of 
which Calhoun gives this sharp account, in 1836 : 
" The Legislatures of the South, backed by the will of 
their constituents, expressed through innumerable 
meetings,have called upon the non-slave-holding States 
to repress the movements made within the jurisdiction 
of those States against their peace and security. Not 
a step has been taken ; not a law has been passed or 
even proposed ; and I venture to assert that none will 
be, not but what there is a favorable disposition 
toward us in the North, but I clearly see the state of 
political parties there presents insuperable impedi- 
ments to any legislation on the subject. I rest my 
opinion on the fact that the non-slave-holding States, 


from the elements of their population are, and will 
continue to be, divided and distracted by parties of 
nearly equal strength, and that each will always be 
ready to seize on every movement of the other which 
may give them the superiority without regard to con- 
sequences as affecting their own States and much less 
remote and distant sections." 

The failure of the North to adopt the prohibitory 
legislation demanded of it added fresh fuel to the hot 
anger burning against it in the South. Calhoun's 
interpretation of this failure did not mend matters. 
It tended rather to deepen a fast-growing conviction 
in the slave States of the incompatibility of their 
interests with those of the free States, and to produce 
as a result, increased activity of the principle of divi- 
sion, widely in operation there. A disposition to 
think and speak in unison with them on the slavery 
question was not enough to satisfy the slave States. 
They called upon the North through their Legislatures 
and " innumerable meetings " to act in unison with 
them in putting down the Abolitionists. But this, 
according to Calhoun, and as a matter of fact, the 
North could not possibly do, however strong might 
be its inclination in that regard. 

It was the same with the controversy over the right 
of petition. The representatives of the free States in 
Congress were desirous, even eager to oblige the 
South on the point. They were ready to go, and did 
actually go, great lengths to convince that section 
of their disapprobation of the animus and prayers 
of the Abolition petitions. But there were fixed 
limits beyond which they did not venture to step. 
The Southern extremists, under the lead of Calhoun, 


proposed to reject the objectionable petitions, with- 
out first receiving them. Yet such a " Northern 
man with Southern principles " as was James 
Buchanan, then a Senator from Pennsylvania, shrank 
from offending the sensibility of his constituents by 
lending the proposition his indorsement. First 
receive and then immediately reject was as harsh a 
disposition of the subject as the exigencies of political 
parties at the North would warrant. This attempt 
to occupy two stools proved unsatisfactory to the 
South. Calhoun hotly denounced the compromise 
suggestion of Mr. Buchanan as " a mere piece of 
artifice to juggle and deceive." "I intend no dis- 
respect to the Senator," he directly apologized, " I 
doubt not his intention is good and I believe his feel- 
ings are with us ; but I must say that the course that 
he has intimated is, in my opinion, the worst possible 
for the slave-holding States." And so, in spite of the 
pro-slavery intentions and feelings of the North, the 
two sections were pulling fatally apart. The South- 
ern way was manifestly not the Northern way. The 
free States could not travel the same road with their 
slave sisters without stumbling upon sectional dif- 
ferences and causes of strife. 

Another circumstance, growing out of the move- 
ment against slavery, produced somewhat similar 
results. The circumstance referred to was the at- 
tempt to suppress Abolitionism in the free States, by 
mob-law. Shut off by causes, which we have indicated, 
from the enactment of repressive measures against 
the agitation of the subject of slavery within its 
jurisdiction, the disposition of the North was, never- 
theless, so good to place itself in accord with the 


South under that head, and its hostility to the 
Abolitionists so passionate that in many localities 
attempts were made to accomplish by popular vio- 
lence what was denied through State legislation. 
But these attempts to abolish Abolition in the free 
States threatened to abolish along with it law and 
order. This unexpected danger to the civil establish- 
ment and vested interests excited presently in those 
States the greatest apprehensions, while this rising 
concern created in time a public sentiment opposed 
to lawlessness. 

The ideal and the goal of the free States had ever 
been a government of laws, not a government of men, 
much less one of mobs. The Anglo-Saxon self-con- 
trol and respect for law and order, which had char- 
acterised the civilization of the Northern States since 
the landing of the Pilgrims, suffered during the mob 
crisis a severe shock. Those States tardily perceived 
that it was quite impossible to expose one portion of 
society to the lawlessness of another without putting 
in jeopardy the welfare and security of the whole. 
Each class must, in sooth, be protected if all would 
be safe. License to set at naught the right of 
assembly and free discussion of any part of the people 
by violence was an invitation to do the same upon 
occasion to other parts of the people. If mobs 
might with impunity destroy the property or lives of 
Abolitionists because of a difference of opinion on the 
question of slavery, why might they not do as much 
to the property and lives of others who might fail to 
agree with them on a wholly different subject ? In 
that direction ran the short and straight road to 
anarchy. The North, when its sober second thought 



had come to it, had no mind, much as it detested the 
Abolitionists, and desired to demonstrate its sym- 
pathy with the South, to travel this downward way to 
certain ruin. And it pulled itself together and back 
upon its ancient and regular tracks of law and 

But the attempt and the failure were productive of 
other and grave collateral consequences. The attempt 
to suppress Abolitionism in the free States by mobs, 
and the dangers to society which ensued, created a 
reaction in those States adverse to slavery. That 
Southern institution became thenceforth associated 
with frightful memories of violence and bloodshed, 
with attacks on the freedom of the press and free 
speech, and with outrages upon the property and 
persons of white men. A new sort of enemity to 
slavery was thus begotten in the North. The enlight- 
ened self-interest of that section had from a hitherto 
unoccupied position reexamined the system and 
learned how irrepressible was the conflict between it 
and Northern ideas, interests, and institutions. 

On the other hand, this anti-slavery revulsion 
against the pro-slavery excesses of the period added 
insult to the Southern sense of injury — threw fresh fuel 
upon the already blazing fires of the grievances of 
that section. It had called in vain upon the North 
with its selfish regard for law and order, and scrupu- 
lous respect for sundry ancient rights of the people 
long ago discarded at the South, called upon it 
through State legislatures and "innumerable meet- 
ings " to repress the firebrand movement against 
slavery. And what answer had been returned ? 
Words, nothing but words. It had demanded through 



its representatives in Congress the rejection of fire- 
brand petitions, containing assaults an the rights, 
character, and institutions of slaveholders; and the 
North through its representatives had, notwithstand- 
ing, determined to receive them. But the unkindest 
cut of all was, perhaps, the anti-slavery reaction in 
the free States against pro-slavery mobs. Judge 
Lynch was a recognized authority at the South. A 
government of men, as contradistinguished from a 
government of laws, had ever marked the civilization 
of that section, inhered, in fact, in its central social 
principle. In practice, however the thing may appear 
in theory, there is but a short step from a govern- 
ment of men to a government by mobs. 

Viewing the situation from totally opposite stand- 
points, it is no wonder that the slave-holding and the 
non-slave-holding sections failed to appreciate the 
feelings and the needs of each other. The act that 
helped one hurt the other. The mobs, which were 
to advantage the South, wrought no end of mis- 
chief at the North. And so, instead of repressing 
the Abolition propaganda, the free States seemed to 
the slave ones to be much more concerned about the 
repression of the peculiarly Southern treatment of 
the incendiaries. Increased friction and ill-will 
between the two halves of the Union were, in con- 
sequence, engendered. The seeds of alienation and 
hate grew apace through the South. The schism 
between the sections sensibly widened, and the anti- 
Union working forces took on in the slave States 
redoubled activity and intensity. 

The Abolition movement, meanwhile, was making 
astonishing progress. All attempts to suppress it but 



operated to augment its energy and growth. The 
higher the tide of persecution rose, the higher the 
spirit of the reform mounted. Events moved in those 
troublous times with surprising celerity. What under 
other conditions would have required, perhaps, fifty 
years to effect, was accomplished then in ten. The 
whole North in half of that brief space was converted 
into one vast resounding anti-slavery debating club. 
The anti-slavery lecturer was omnipresent. Anti- 
slavery publications issued from the anti-slavery 
press " Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the 
brooks in Vallambrosa." Anti-slavery societies and 
multitudes seemed to rush in streams out of the 

In 1837, Calhoun, who, more than any other states- 
man of his time, comprehended the underlying causes 
of difference and strife between the sections, gave this 
gloomy forecast of the agitation : " Already it (Aboli- 
tion) has taken possession of the pulpit, of the schools, 
and, to a considerable extent, of the press — those great 
instruments by which the mind of the rising genera- 
tion will be formed. However sound the great body 
of the non-slave-holding States are at present, in the 
course of a few years they will be succeeded by those 
who will have been taught to hate the people and 
institutions of nearly one-half of this Union with a 
hatred more deadly than one hostile nation ever 
entertained towards another. It is easy to see the 
end. By the necessary course of events, if left to 
themselves, we must become, finally, two peoples. It 
is impossible under the deadly hatred which must 
spring up between the two great sections, if the 
present causes are permitted to operate unchecked, 


that we should continue under the same political 

Thus early had the national situation in respect of 
slavery assumed an aspect of extreme gravity. To 
the Union worshipers the outlook was threatening 
enough. For all the signs indicated that the coun- 
try was hurrying into a state of increasing uproar 
and conflict. In the South, the fatal conviction was 
deepening and spreading that Abolition and the 
Union could not possibly coexist ; while in the North 
the contrary belief was likewise deepening and 
spreading that slavery and the Union could not 
together permanently endure. The crashing and 
grinding of those enormous, antagonistic forces of 
public opinion was working destructively on the 
brotherly feeling of the people of the South and of 
those of the North, so that even then the deadly 
hatred, predicted by Calhoun, was beginning between 
the sections. 

It was at this stage of the irrepressible conflict 
that the agitation over the annexation of Texas 
appeared to make matters already very bad a great 
deal worse. However, the design of the South upon 
Texas was natural enough, as will be seen by a con- 
sideration of the causes which led up to it. In the 
contest between the sections for political ascendency 
in the general Government the South had been losing 
ground since the close of the war of 1812. The 
North had, since that event, far outstripped it in 
wealth and population, in fine, in all the elements of 
9 superior and progressive civilization. Socially and 
industrially the free States in 1840 were indisputably 
the stronger, and the slave ones the weaker half of 



the Union. One had become a relatively increasing, 
and the other a relatively diminishing national quan- 
tity. The industrial and social balance between 
them was hopelessly destroyed. The influence of 
this fact alone would, in course of time, by the opera- 
tion of economic laws, redress the political balance 
between the sections in favor of the free States. 

This great northward trend of wealth, population, 
and social strength in the Republic, early attracted 
the notice of Southern leaders, who could not con- 
ceal the apprehensions which, in consequence, they 
felt for the future of the slave-holding States. Cal- 
houn watched it with profound and intense attention. 
What he saw was calculated to appal a less resolute 
and indomitable spirit. For clearly it was written in all 
this northward tilt of population and industrial 
prosperity the mene mene tekel upharsin of Southern 
domination in the national Government, unless, 
indeed, some means were discovered for overcoming 
and reversing the action of economic laws and forces 
at the moment in full play in the Republic. Cer- 
tainly it behooved the weaker section to exert itself 
in this political extremity. 

The slave line of 1820 shut slavery within territo- 
rial limits which it was never to exceed. The slave 
soil created by the Missouri Compromise was now 
nearly exhausted. The admission of new slave States 
was about to cease for want of material out of which 
to carve them. And with this final check to the terri- 
torial expansion of the slave-power, the slave-holding 
States would pass in the national Senate, as they had 
long ago passed in the national House, to the hope- 
less condition of a relatively declining minority, to 


be outnumbered and outvoted, on all sectional mat- 
ters and issues, by their non-slave-holding rivals. 
With the downfall of the South in the Senate would 
vanish, as a matter of course, its long political ascen- 
dency in the Union, and in time its slave institutions 
would disappear also. 

This horrible possibility oppressed Calhoun like a 
nightmare. Tormented by gloomy and anxious 
thoughts for the future of his section and its indus- 
trial system, the veteran slave champion began to 
question the wisdom of a compromise which he had 
helped to adopt. In this state of mind he came to 
view the Missouri settlement as a cardinal blunder on 
the side of the South, and to cast about him for some 
escape out of the trap in which it had caught the 

Then it was that Texas rose on our horizon 
in its struggle for independence. The uprising 
of Texas against Mexico was the breaking of 
day on the midnight darkness of the South. In that 
instant Calhoun's purpose was formed — he would cor- 
rect the old blunder of 1820 by the annexation of 
slave territory, which, in the graphic language of 
Webster, " a bird could not fly over in a week." Ou" 
of its immense, undefined area slave States might be 
formed as the Southern exigency might demand. So 
at least reasoned many of the leaders of that section. 
The stakes were high, and they played for them wit' 
a bold and masterly hand. From small beginnin 
the agitation rose under the dextrous management o 
Calhoun to tremendous proportions. " Texas or di 
union " was the cry which the South finally raised 
and it shortly expressed the determined and desp 


rate purpose of that section in relation to an- 

The free States on the other hand were not at all 
disposed to look with favor upon a scheme to aug- 
ment the slave soil of the country. All the old dread 
of Southern domination, and dissatisfaction with the 
Southern advantages, contained in the original basis 
of the Union, stirred wrathfully in the hot heart of 
the North as the Texan agitation approached its con- 
clusion. The Southern challenge of " Texas or 
disunion " was answered by the Northern de- 
fiance of " No more slave soil," " No more slave 

The struggle was long and fierce, leaving on both 
sections lasting and bitter effects. It, too, like pre- 
vious contests, was concluded by a compromise, if 
that can be called a compromise, by which one side 
makes all the concessions, and the other receives 
every substantial advantage. Texas was admitted 
into the Union. The slave line of 36 30', as a mat- 
ter of form, was drawn through it, and a limit im- 
posed upon the number of States, which might there- 
after be constructed from it. These shadowy, negative 
benefits accrued to freedom. Slavery got the rest. 
Slavery was triumphant. Freedom had suffered, what 
seemed at the time, a disastrous defeat. 

But there were collateral consequences, which, 
in a measure, compensated to liberty this crush- 
ing blow. The moral awakening which grew out 
of the agitation in the free States proved an incal- 
culable good. For it accelerated the spread of anti- 
slavery sentiment by the creation of popular con- 
ditions favorable to their diffusion and adoption. 



It enlisted besides, the active sympathy and cooper- 
ation of a highly intelligent and influential class, 
which had previously taken no positive position on 
the subject of slavery. 

On the flood thus fed, the Abolition movement 
passed from a state of pure moral agitation to its more 
momentous phase of organized political opposition 
to the evil. This annexation controversy, in its 
progress, consummation, and consequences, precipi- 
tated at the North the formation of a political party 
movement along distinctively sectional lines. In this 
aspect of the matter, the triumph of the South was 
not an unqualified gain. It must, in fact, be counted 
a sort of Pyrric victory. But this was not all. " Pitch 
the Devil out of the door," runs an old saw, " and 
he returns through the window." Troubles assailed 
the South from an unexpected quarter. She had cast 
out her dread of Northern political ascendency by 
annexing Texas. But, alack and alas ! this same 
dread had returned with tenfold strength on the 
wings of the Mexican War. Calhoun was checkmated; 
fate had outgeneraled the slave-power. 

It was the aim of the Texan plotters to augment 
the Southern term of the fraction of Federal political 
power. The acquisition of California and New 
Mexico frustrated this design by multiplying the 
Northern term of the fraction of Federal political 
power. Calhoun confessed at this juncture that he 
was no longer able to forecast the future. An impene- 
trable curtain had dropped between the present and 
the hereafter, which shut from his vision everything 
but the stern and overwhelming catastrophe. And 
no wonder. For he and his section had plunged 



abruptly into one of those terrible blind alleys in 
which human history abounds. They were entangled, 
entrapped in the toils of their own setting. The 
engineers of the Texan scheme were hoisted by 
their own petard. 



« The Texan agitation drew forth Sumner's first 
political speech. Writing to Dr. S. G. Howe in the 
winter of 1843, ne feared "some insidious movement 
in favor of Texas." " The South yearns," he goes on 
to remark, " for that immense cantle of territory to 
carve into great slave-holding States. We shall wit- 
ness in this Congress some animated contests on this 
matter." His fear was well founded, his prognosti- 
cation sustained by the developments of the new 
year. The agitation for annexation burned fiercely 
in Congress, spread from Congress to the four quar- 
ters of the nation. Such progress had the fires of the 
agitation made within a twelvemonth, that in 1845 
they attained the magnitude of a general confla- 
gration. The excitement in the North was intense — 
tremendous. Meetings in opposition to annexation 
were held throughout the free States. A new note, or 
rather an old note, struck by the North twice before 
within thirty years, a note of passionate dread of, and 
passionate antagonism to, the domination of slavery 
in the Government, a note in which Liberty, not 
Union, formed the major tone, sounded like a tocsin 
in the land. The alarm of the free States was pro- 
found — prodigious. In Massachusetts the agitation 
excitement reached perhaps, its height, and the spirit 



of bold resistance to the extension of slavery culmi- 

Sumner made his political debut on the night of 
November 4, 1845, at a public meeting, held in Fan- 
ueil Hall, to protest against the admission of Texas 
with her slave constitution into the Union. Charles 
Francis Adams presided on the occasion, and William 
I. Bowditch acted as one of the secretaries. Young 
men then, they both subsequently added lustre to 
names then already illustrious in statesmanship and 
science. Sumner's was a leading part in the demon- 
stration, not only uttering with eloquent lips the 
thoughts of the hour, but voicing with eloquent pen 
also the anti-slavery feelings of the meeting, in resolu- 
tions of singular boldness, humanity, and energy. He 
struck firmly on this first evening the keynote of his 
entire public career, viz, the equality and brotherhood of 
all men, as set forth in the Declaration of Independ- 
ence : 

" Whereas, The Government and Independence of 
the United States," so opened the resolutions, " are 
founded on the adamantine truth of Equal Rights and 
the Brotherhood of all Men, declared on the 4th of 
July, 1776, a truth receiving new and constant recog- 
nition in the progress of time, and which is the great 
lesson from our country to the world, in support of 
which the founders toiled and bled, and on account of 
which we, their children, bless their memory. . . . 

"And Whereas, This scheme [for the annexation of 
Texas as a slave State], if successful, involves the 
whole country, free States as well as slave ones, in 
one of the two greatest crimes a nation can commit, 
and threatens to involve them in the other, namely, 


slavery and unjust war, slavery of the most revolt- 
ing character, and war to sustain slavery. . . . 

"Therefore Be It Resolved, In the name of God, of 
Christ, and of Humanity, that we, belonging to all 
political parties, and reserving all other reasons of 
objection, unite in protest against the admission of 
Texas into this Union as a slave State. 

" Resolved, That the people of Massachusetts will 
continue to resist the consummation of this wicked 
purpose, which will cover the country with disgrace 
and make us responsible for crimes of gigantic mag- 
nitude." . . . 

Such were the anti-slavery style and spirit of those 
first political resolutions. The anti-slavery style and 
spirit of the first political speech were like unto 

It was the wrong of slavery in its moral, rather 
than in its political, aspect, which formed the subject 
and the burden of this speech. Great as would be 
the evil of annexation to the people of the North, it 
could not equal the crime of it against humanity. 
"I cannot dwell now," said the orator, "upon the 
controlling political influence in the councils of the 
country which the annexation of Texas will secure to 
slaveholders ; this topic is of importance, but it yields 
to the supreme requirements of religion, morals, and 
humanity. I cannot banish from my view the great 
shame and wrong of slavery. Judges of our courts 
have declared it contrary to the Law of Nature, find- 
ing its support only in positive enactments of men. 
Its horrors who can tell ? Language utterly fails to 
depict them. 

" By the proposed measure, we not only become 


parties to the acquisition of a large population of 
slaves, with all the crime of slavery, but we open a 
new market for the slaves of Virginia and the Caro- 
linas, and legalize a new slave-trade. A new slave- 
trade ! Consider this well. You cannot forget the 
horrors of that too famous < middle passage,' where 
crowds of human beings, stolen, and borne by sea 
far from their warm African homes, are pressed on 
shipboard into spaces of smaller dimensions for each 
than a coffin. And yet the deadly consequences of 
this middle passage are believed to fall short of those 
sometimes undergone by the wretched coffles driven 
from the exhausted lands of the Northern slave States 
to the sugar plantations nearer the sun of the South. 
One-quarter are said often to perish in these removals. 
I see them, in imagination, on their fatal journey, 
chained in bands, and driven like cattle, leaving 
behind what has become to them a home and a coun- 
try (alas! what a home and what a country!) — 
husband torn from wife, and parent from child, to be 
sold anew into more direful captivity. Can this take 
place with our consent, nay, without our most 
determined opposition ? If the slave-trade is to 
receive new adoption from our country, let us have 
no part or lot in it. Let us wash our hands of this 
great guilt. As we read its horrors may each of us 
be able to exclaim, with conscience void of offense, 
'Thou canst not say I did it.' God forbid that the 
votes and voices of Northern freemen should help to 
bind anew the fetters of the slave ! God forbid that 
the lash of the slavedealer should descend by any 
sanction from New England ! God forbid that the 
blood which spurts from the lacerated, quivering 



flesh of the slave should soil the hem of the white 
garments of Massachusetts ! " 

This was the first of many addresses which, in time, 
were to fill many volumes on the subject of slavery. 
It was not one of those marvels of the orator's art 
and eloquence, such as was Wendell Phillips's first 
speech from the same platform nearly eight years 
before. Of itself, it could not have placed its 
author in the front rank of the orators of the times. 
But it was the beginning of an oratoric stream, which, 
growing with the years and the great cause of 
humanity, was to roll through the land like some 
Mississippi of the anti-slavery movement. 

About a dozen years previously, Sumner had seen 
slaves for the first time as the reader will perhaps 
recall. The reader will perhaps recall, also, how the 
sight of them affected him then, and the scholarly 
aversion with which their appearance filled him. 
His " worst preconception of their appearance and 
ignorance did not fall as low as their actual stupid- 
ity," he wrote. " They appear to be nothing more 
than moving masses of flesh, unendowed with any- 
thing of intelligence above the brutes." That was to 
the scholar's eye, but how different they now appeared 
to the humanitarian's is seen in the noble passage 
beginning " I see them, in imagination, on their fatal 
journey," etc. They are no longer " moving masses 
of flesh," but men and brothers, husbands, wives, 
parents, and children. The scholar's aversion has 
given place to deep and passionate human sympathy; 
the political evils of their enslavement pales and 
dwindles by the side of the awful and appalling wrong 
of it. The moral nature of the young jurist is on 



fire with tender pity for those selfsame slaves, who 
once seemed to him " unendowed with anything of 
intelligence above the brutes," and ablaze with hostile 
aversion to the system, which so cruelly oppresses 
and dehumanizes them. 

From that brave beginning, Sumner's voice was 
not long intermitted on this transcendent subject of 
his own and the nation's thoughts. Struck with the 
truth of that profound saying of Schiller, " Give the 
world beneath your influence a direction towards the 
good, and the tranquil rhythm of time will bring 
its development," he began with a noble enthusiasm 
to give, as far as in him lay, the public sentiment of 
Boston and Massachusetts a direction toward the 
equal rights and brotherhood of all men, regardless 
of race and color, now seizing one occasion, now 
another in the swift flying months and years, to do 
what the while was clearly becoming the supreme 
passion and purpose of his life. 

On August 27, 1846, occurred one of those occa- 
sions turned by Sumner to the advancement of the 
freedom of the slave. It was then that he delivered his 
memorable Phi Beta Kappa oration at Cambridge on 
"The Scholar, The Jurist, The Artist, The Philan- 
thropist," which was a tribute to John Pickering, 
Joseph Story, Washington Allston, and William 
Ellery Channing, who had all passed away during the 
preceding quadrennial of the society. An address 
on the nation's anti-slavery duties would not have 
been tolerated by the scholars of the University at 
that time, or for that matter at any subsequent period 
prior to emancipation. The scholars of Harvard did 
not take kindly either to the anti-slavery agitation or 



the agitators, as Sumner presently learned by pain- 
ful experience. But on that August day, fenced 
behind four such illustrious names, the young phi- 
lanthropist was able to preach some plain truth, touch- 
ing the wrong of slavery to the men who put human 
lore above human liberty. 

The life of Dr. Channing furnished the text for 
the anti-slavery portion of that splendid Phi Beta 
Kappa discourse. Channing's highest praise was his 
love of humanity, his passion for righteusness, his 
championship of the rights of man, his exaltation of 
the worth of the individual man not alone in his 
relations to another world, but in those to the present 
also. The image of the deity, which he recognized 
beneath all varieties of races, colors, and conditions in 
the nature of man he held a sacred charge to be 
cherished, and defended always and everywhere 
against the dehumanizing and infernal forces of vio- 
lence and wrong. His contest with war and slavery 
was not a contest against them as mere abstractions, 
but as present, particular, and terrible realities. He 
did not content himself with a discharge into the air 
of a few broadsides of general moral principles and 
platitudes, deceiving himself into the absurd belief 
that he was fighting for Right and against Wrong. 
Nothing of the kind. " His morality, elevated by 
Christian love, fortified by Christian righteousness, 
was frankly applied to the people and affairs of his 
own country and age. . . . He brought his moral- 
ity to bear distinctly upon the world. Nor was he 
disturbed by another suggestion, which the moralist 
often encounters, that his views were sound in theory, 
but not practical. He well knew that what was 



unsound in theory must be vicious in practice. Undis- 
turbed by hostile criticism, he did not hesitate to 
arraign the wrong he discerned, and fasten upon it 
the mark of Cain. His philanthropy was morality in 

Channing taught that there was not one code of 
morals for nations, and another for individuals. 
What was right for one was right for the other ; 
what was wrong for an individual to do was no less a 
wrong when done by a nation. " This truth cannot 
be too often proclaimed," proceeded the orator in the 
strain and tone of an anointed prophet-apostle of 
humanity. "Pulpit, press, school, college, all should 
render it familiar to the ear, and pour it into the soul. 
Beneficent Nature joins with the moralist in declar- 
ing the universality of God's laws ; the flowers of the 
field, the rays of the sun, the morning and evening 
dews, the descending showers, the waves of the sea, 
the breezes that fan our cheeks and bear rich argosies 
from shore to shore, the careering storm, all on this 
earth, — nay, more, the system of which this earth is 
a part, and the infinitude of the Universe, in which 
our system dwindles to a grain of sand, — all declare 
one prevailing law, knowing no distinction of person, 
number, mass, or extent." 

Coming directly to the subject of slavery, Sumner 
pointed out how, in defense of African liberty, Chan- 
ning " invoked always the unanswerable considera- 
tions of justice and humanity. The argument of 
economy, deemed by some to contain all that is per- 
tinent," continued the orator, " never presented itself 
to him. The question of profit and loss was absorbed 
in the question of right and wrong. His maxim 



was — anything but slavery ; poverty sooner than 
slavery. But while exhibiting this institution in 
blackest colors, as inhuman, unjust, unchristian, 
unworthy of an enlightened age, and of a republic 
professing freedom, his gentle nature found no word of 
harshness for those whom birth, education, and cus- 
tom bred to its support. . . . 

" He urged the duty — such was his unequivocal 
language — incumbent on the Northern States to free 
themselves from all support of slavery. To this con- 
clusion he was driven irresistibly by the ethical 
principle, that what is wrong for the individual is wrong 
for the State. No son of the Pilgrims can hold a fel- 
low-man in bondage. Conscience forbids. No son 
of the Pilgrims can, through Government, hold a 
fellow-man in bondage. Conscience equally for- 

Thus did the Phi Beta Kappa orator seize the 
occasion to lift up the standard of equality and 
human brotherhood " to light a fresh beacon-fire on 
the venerable walls of Harvard, sacred to Truth, to 
Christ, and to the Church " ; and, when glowing with 
his great theme, he exclaimed at the end, " Let the 
flame pass from steeple to steeple, from hill to hill, 
from island to island, from continent to continent, till 
the long lineage of fires illumine all the nations of 
the earth, animating them to the holy contests of 
Knowledge, Justice, Beauty, Love," there arose a 
sympathetic response in the heart of one, at least, of 
his auditors. This particular auditor was, however, 
a host in himself, for he was no less a personage than 
John Quincy Adams, who perceived then that in the 
drama of slavery, destiny had called Sumner to play 



a great part. " The pleasure with which I listened 
to your discourse," wrote the Old Man Eloquent two 
days after the delivery of the oration, " was inspired 
far less by the success and all but universal accep- 
tance and applause of the present moment, than by 
the vista of the future which is opened to my view. 
Casting my eyes backward no farther than the 4th of 
July of last year, when you set all the vipers of 
Alecto a-hissing by proclaiming the Christian law of 
universal peace and love, and then casting them for- 
ward, perhaps not much farther, but beyond my own 
allotted time, I see you have a mission to perform. 
I look from Pisgah to the Promised Land ; you must 
enter upon it. . . . To the motto on my seal 
[Altera saeculo], add Delenda est servitus." 

No need, however, for the parting injunction; 
Delenda est servitus was already deeply graven on the 
seal of the young reformer. From this moment his 
attacks upon the national sin never slackened, but 
increased in frequency and energy. Four weeks 
later he renewed the assault in the Whig State Con- 
vention of Massachusetts, held in Faneuil Hall, Sep- 
tember 23, 1846. But he, young and ardent, had his 
illusions to be dispelled, and one of those was the 
hope of converting the Whig party into an anti-slav- 
ery instrument. He perceived the necessity of an 
organized political movement devoted to freedom, 
to oppose the political organization devoted to slav- 
ery. He knew that great national parties are not 
made to order, but are born, evolved out of circum- 
stances which require their agency in giving direc- 
tion to public sentiment and solving public problems. 
There were signs that such a party was forming in 



the matrix of time, preparations for it like the Lib- 
erty party, prophecies of it like the rise and growth 
of anti-slavery principles in the body of both of the 
old parties, but a new party, devoted to freedom was 
not among the political probabilities of the year 1846. 
And this, of course, Sumner well knew, even had he 
no faith in the ultimate conversion of the Whigs to 
the espousal of the cause of liberty. But he was 
evidently, in the beginning, a strong believer in the 
anti-slavery possibilities of that party. And no won- 
der. For if the party in Massachusetts was to be 
relied upon in that regard, was to be taken as a good 
example of the anti-slavery potentialities of the 
national organization, then, surely Sumner had rea- 
son for his expectation. The anti-slavery element 
in that party in Massachusetts had become an import- 
ant factor in State politics since the agitation preced- 
ing and succeeding the annexation of Texas. It com- 
prised some of its ablest leaders in the State, and it 
comprised numerical strength as well. It included 
such veterans as John Quincy Adams, Josiah Quincy, 
and John G. Palfrey ; such young and aggressive 
spirits as Charles Francis Adams, George S. Hillard, 
Dr. S. G. Howe, and John A. Andrew, among whom 
Sumner was, as early as 1846, the recognized leader. 

True to his double design to let no opportunity 
slip to preach the doctrines of human rights to his 
countrymen, and to graft anti-slavery principles upon 
the Whig party, Sumner seized the occasion of the 
Whigs assembling in Convention to promote the 
interests of freedom in those regards. Upon the 
withdrawal of the committee appointed to report 
resolutions, he was called upon for a speech. The 



speech made by him bears the marks of careful prep- 
aration, and was, probably, like such performances 
of his, fully written out and memorised in antici- 
pation of the opening. There was doubtless, no 
accident between the call and the speech. The call 
came because there was a speech, and the speech was 
ready, we dare say, because it was expected. It came 
as an expression of a well-defined anti-slavery move- 
ment within the party in Massachusetts, and from the 
lips of the boldest, and the most eloquent and deter- 
mined of its younger leaders in the city and common- 

It was Sumner's second political speech, and the 
subject of it, " Anti-Slavery Duties of the Whig 
Party," evinced his early hopes and aims, touching 
the anti-slavery possibilities of that party. No utter- 
ance could have been more earnest. It was like the 
mouth of a furnace through which was seen the con- 
science, the will, the intellect of the orator, fervid 
and flaming over the fierce breath of an idea, at once 
imperious and supreme. It was anti-slavery, political 
and moral, incarnate. From its opening sentence, in 
which Sumner expressed his intention to speak of 
duties, to its closing one in which " Right, Freedom, 
and Humanity" resounded like a summons to battle, 
the speech glowed and blazed with the white heat of 
a master thought, a master purpose. 

The Whig party must be true to its name, must 
stand for moral ideas, for right, freedom, humanity, 
not alone for the Tariff, Internal Improvements, and 
a National Bank. The Whigs are called conservatives. 
Let them truly conserve the everlasting principles of 
truth and liberty in the manly and generous spirit of 



the Declaration of Independence. It should be the 
party of freedom, openly, energetically. It should be 
the party opposed to slavery, openly, energetically. 
The time has gone by for the question, what has the 
North to do with slavery ? Politically, it has little to do 
with anything else. Slavery is everywhere. Under the 
slave-representation clause of the Constitution it is 
seated in Congress. It plies its traffic in human flesh 
in the District of Columbia within the legislative 
jurisdiction of the nation, on the high seas under the 
national flag, and pursues its flying victims into the 
sacred precincts of Northern freedom ; " nay, more, 
with profane hands it seizes those who have never 
known the name of slave, freemen of the North, an<5 
dooms them to irremediable bondage. It insults and 
expels from its jurisdiction honored representatives 
of Massachusetts, seeking to secure for her colored 
citizens the peaceful safeguard of the Union. It. 
assumes at pleasure to build up new slave-holding 
States, striving perpetually to widen its area, while 
professing to extend the area of freedom. It has 
brought upon the country war with Mexico, with its 
enormous expenditures and more enormous guilt. 
By the spirit of union among its supporters, it con- 
trols the affairs of Government, interferes with the 
cherished interests of the North, enforcing and then 
refusing protection to her manufactures, makes and 
unmakes Presidents, usurps to itself the larger por- 
tion of all offices of honor and profit, both in the 
army and navy, and also in the civil department, and 
stamps upon our whole country the character, before 
the world, of that monstrous anomaly and mockery, a 
slave-holding Republic, with the living truths of free- 



dom on its lips and the dark mark of slavery on its 

Massachusetts must wash her hands of all complicity 
with the acts of this great criminal. " If it be wrong 
to hold a single slave, it must be wrong to hold many. 
If it be wrong for an individual to hold a slave, it 
must be wrong for a State. If it be wrong for a 
State in its individual capacity, it must be wrong also 
in association with other States." Repeal of Slavery 


Government, ergo, should be the rallying cry of the 
Whigs of Massachusetts. 

Slavery in the District of Columbia, in the Terri- 
tories, and on the high seas under the national colors, 
may be reached by Congress constitutionally, it may 
be reached by constitutional amendment, also. 
Slavery under the Constitution was not designed by 
its framers to endure perpetually. They looked for 
its ultimate extinction. Let Washington, Jefferson, 
and Franklin speak for them. Surely they earnestly 
desired its early abolishment. It is the duty of the 
Whigs, professing the principles of the fathers, to 
place themselves against the evil, " not only against its 
further extension, but against its longer continuance under 
the Constitution and Laws of the Union." Emancipa- 
tion they should present as the cardinal object of our 
national policy. 

The party must not content itself with a mere 
paper opposition to slavery, through anti-slavery 
resolutions, it must fight the monster with good men 
and true, who will be, not Northern men with South- 
ern principles, nor yet Northern men under Southern 
influences, but loyal ever to Freedom and Humanity, 



brave enough to stand alone with Right. There are 
few such men in Congress. Massachusetts has one, 
venerable and illustrious, whose aged bosom still glows 
with the inextinguishable fires of liberty. Would 
that all might join him, whom all well know to be 
that resolute and commanding opponent of slavery 
on the floor of Congress, John Quincy Adams. Then, 
in an impassioned passage, the young orator called 
upon Webster to add to his title of Defender of the 
Constitution the grander one of Defender of Hu??ianity, 
and closed thus in this heroic strain : 

" To my mind it is clear that the time has arrived 
when the Whigs of Massachusetts, the party of free- 
dom, owe it to their declared principles, to their 
character before the world, and to conscience, that 
they should place themselves firmly on this honest 
ground. They need not fear to stand alone. They 
need not fear separation from brethren with whom 
they have acted in concert. Better be separated 
even from them than from the Right. Massachusetts 
can stand alone, if need be. The Whigs of Massa- 
chusetts can stand alone. Their motto should not be 
' Our party, howsoever bounded' but ' Our party, 
bounded always by the Right.' They must recognize 
the dominion of Right, or there will be none to recog- 
nize the dominion of the party. Let us, then, in Fan- 
euil Hall, beneath the images of our fathers, vow per- 
petual allegiance to the Right, and perpetual hostility 
to slavery. Ours is a noble cause, nobler even than 
that of our fathers, inasmuch as it is more exalted to 
struggle for the freedom of others than for our own. 
The love of Right, which is the animating impulse of 
our movement, is higher even than the love of Free- 



dom. But Right, Freedom, and Humanity all con- 
cur in demanding the abolition of slavery." 

From the Cotton wing of the Whig Convention 
the speech met a cold and significant reception. It was 
Nathan Appleton who remarked to the orator just as 
he stepped from the platform, " A good speech for 
Virginia, but out of place here," to which Sumner 
quickly responded, " If good for Virginia, it is good 
for Boston, as we have our responsibilities for slav- 
ery/' Robert C. Winthrop, another representative of 
that wing of the Whigs, at the call of the convention, 
followed Mr. Sumner immediately, doubtless, to 
voice the sentiments of the party contrariant to those 
of the address, which was understood to embody the 
views and aspirations of the Conscience wing of the 
Whigs. Twelve days after the delivery of his speech, 
Sumner received a note from Mr. W T ebster, which 
indicated pretty plainly that he was not disposed to 
act upon the appeal to him by adding to his other 
titles that of Defender of Humanity. " In political 
affairs we happen to entertain, at the present 
moment," so ran the words of the great man's 
friendly missive, " a difference of opinion respecting 
the relative importance of some of the political ques- 
tions of the time, and take a different view of the 
line of duty most fit to be pursued in endeavors to 
obtain all the good which can be obtained in connec- 
tion with certain important subjects." Ah! Sumner 
had to learn by repeated failures that with Webster 
and the Whigs Right and Liberty were of less 
importance than dollars and dividends. 

But the determined purpose of Sumner was not to 
be deflected so much as the tithe of a hair from his 



object, either by the cold tone of Appleton or the 
crafty words of Webster. Sumner clearly perceived 
that in the impending political struggle with slavery, 
everything depended on the kind of men who were 
put forward to represent the North in Congress. 
They were not to be sound in sentiment only, they 
were to possess the courage of their convictions also. 
Anti-slavery resolutions without the right men 
behind them were no more than political sounding 
brass, and tinkling cymbals, was the noise of thunder 
with the electric bolt left out. For himself, he 
wanted the thunder to arouse the conscience of the 
nation, but even more, he wanted its bolts to smite 
the giant wrong. Hence his insistence upon the 
selection of none but men valiant and true, as the 
representatives of the Whigs in Washington. What 
he strenuously insisted upon as a member of the 
Whig State Convention, he sternly enforced immed- 
iately afterward as an individual Whig elector in the 
case of Robert C. Winthrop and his vote in Congress 
upon the wrongful declaration of war against 

Mr. Winthrop was the bright, particular star of the 
younger portion of the Cotton wing of the Whigs of 
Massachusetts. He had been early chosen to repre- 
sent in Congress, the party in Boston. Amiable, elo- 
quent, and accomplished, he had approved himself an 
honor to Massachusetts, and an able defender of her 
interests, such as were embraced in the Bank and 
Tariff questions of the day. He was the young idol 
of Beacon and State streets, and to all appearances 
the destined successor of Webster in the leadership 
of the great Whig classes of the city and common- 


I 79 

wealth. He had not been unmindful of other than 
their material interests, it must also be recorded to 
his credit. In the matter of the treatment of colored 
seamen in sundry Southern ports, his manly report 
upon the subject in Congress will doubtless be 
recalled by the reader, and also Mr. Sumner's cordiai 
commendation of it besides. Mr. Winthrop was sin- 
cerely opposed to the extension of slavery, and if 
mere words could have entitled him to an anti-slav- 
ery character, he certainly would not then have been 
found wanting in that regard. 

But in the new test of office which Sumner had 
proposed to the Whigs in convention assembled, 
anti-slavery words were deemed important, but anti- 
slavery action was rated as indispensable to official 
fitness. The men chosen to represent the free States 
in Congress " must not be Northern men with South- 
ern principles, nor Northern men under Southern 
influences," was his pungent and epigrammatic char- 
acterization of the exacting nature of the new test. 
In a public letter, addressed to Mr. Winthrop on 
October 26, 1846, and which that gentleman, prob- 
ably never forgot or forgave during the lifetime of 
the author, Sumner applied the new test to the polit- 
ical conduct of the representative from Boston in its 
relations to the war with Mexico, with a rigor and 
energy that was impressive, almost imposing. 

After the annexation of Texas there arose between 
Mexico and the United States a question of disputed 
boundary, Mexico on her part contending that the 
territorial jurisdiction of Texas extended to the river 
Nueces, while the United States insisted that the Rio 
Grande and not the Nueces formed the line of separ- 



ation between the two republics. The great object 
sought to be obtained by the annexation of Texas 
was the acquisition of additional slave territory, the 
more the better from the standpoint of the South. 
The temptation to add to the prize won by it, the 
land included between the Nueces and the Rio 
Grande, was altogether too much for the moral re- 
sistance of the slave-power, and it speedily and 
greedily succumbed to its inordinate lust for the pos- 
session of that choice cantle of Mexican territory. In 
January, 1846, President Polk ordered United States 
soldiers, under the command of General Taylor, to 
proceed to the occupation of this debatable land. 
Their occupancy brought on a collision with the 
troops of Mexico and virtually began the war. The 
United States was plainly the aggressor, not Mexico, 
who was acting wholly on the defensive, attempting 
to repel invaders from her dominion. Such was Sum- 
ner's position. 

At this juncture the cry was craftily raised by the 
emissaries of the slave-power that the American 
Army of Occupation was in danger. This was cal- 
culated to excite the sympathy and patriotism of the 
nation, irrespective of sections, and to secure the sup- 
port of Congress, and the requisite military supplies 
for the successful prosecution of the scheme of Mexi- 
can spoliation. Ably assisted by the President the 
plan for hoodwinking the free States succeeded. 
Northern representatives, who had opposed the an- 
nexation of Texas as a slave State, were duped by 
this adroit appeal to their love of country, into giving 
aid and encouragement toward the conduct of a war 
made for no other cause than the augmentation of 


the slave soil of the Union. Mr. Winthrop belonged 
to the number who had fallen into the trap laid 
for them by the slave-power. He had expressed 
himself, anent the annexation of Texas as a slave 
State, as " uncompromisingly opposed to slavery, or 
the addition of another inch of slave-holding terri- 
tory to the nation," but tamely enough afterward 
gave his vote for the prosecution to its " speedy and 
successful termination " of a war waged solely for 
the territorial agrandizement of Texas as a slave 
State. In that act he had proven himself, if not a 
Northern man with Southern principles, then a 
Northern man under Southern influences, and, there- 
fore, unworthy of the confidence of the friends of 

Sumner's letter to Mr. Winthrop was a sharp ar- 
raignment of him as a public servant in that regard, 
and a stern declaration that he has been weighed 
and found wanting in loyalty to Truth, Right, Lib- 
erty, and Humanity, and by him the writer, solemnly 
disowned and rejected as unworthy longer to repre- 
sent the Whigs of Boston in Congress. 

A couple of extracts from this letter, which was an 
event in the politics of Massachusetts in the autumn 
of 1846, will convey to the reader an idea of its moral 
rigor of tone and energy of diction. " Such, sir, is 
the Act of Congress to which by your affirmative 
vote," so runs the letter, " the people of Boston are 
made parties. Through you they are made to declare 
unjust and cowardly war, with superadded falsehood, in 
the cause of slavery. Through you they are made par- 
takers in the blockade of Vera Cruz, the seizure of 
California, the capture of Santa Fe, the bloodshed of 



Monterey. It were idle to suppose that the soldier 
or officer only is stained by this guilt. It reaches far 
back, and incarnadines the Halls of Congress; nay, 
more, through you, it reddens the hands of your con- 
stituents in Boston. Pardon this language. Strong 
as it may seem, it is weak to express the aggravation 
of this Act. Rather than lend your hand to this 
wickedness, you should have suffered the army of the 
United States to pass submissively through the Cau- 
dine Forks of Mexican power — to perish, it might be, 
like the legions of Varus. Their bleached bones, in 
the distant valleys, where they were waging unjust 
war, would not tell to posterity such a tale of igno- 
miny as this lying Act of Congress. 

* * * * * * 

" Another apology is, that the majority of the Whig 
party joined with you, or, as it has been expressed, 
that Mr. Winthrop voted with all the rest of the 
weight of moral character in Congress, from the free 
States, belonging to the Whig party, not included in the 
Massachusetts delegation; and suggestions are made in 
disparagement of the fourteen who remained un- 
shaken in loyalty to Truth and Peace. In the ques- 
tion of Right or Wrong, it is of little importance that 
a few fallible men, constituting what is called a ma- 
jority, are all of one mind. Supple or insane majori- 
ties are found in every age to sanction injustice. It 
was a majority which passed the Stamp Act, and 
Tea Tax, — which smiled upon the persecution of 
Galileo, — which stood about the stake of Servetus, 
— which administered the hemlock to Socrates, — 
which called for the crucifixion of our Lord. These 
maiorities cannot make us hesitate to condemn such 



acts, and their authors. Aloft on the throne of God, 
and not below in the footprints of a trampling multi- 
tude, are the sacred rules of Right, which no majori- 
ties can displace or overturn. And the question re- 
curs, was it right to declare unjust and cowardly war, 
with superadded falsehood, in the cause of slavery ?" 
The answer of the letter was one deep, stern, re- 
sounding NO. 

After the appearance of this letter, the opposition 
in Boston to the return of Mr. Winthrop crystallized 
about its author and a strong disposition arose in 
the city to run Sumner as an independent candidate 
for Congress. With this end in view he was 
approached again and again by those dissatisfied 
with the record of Mr. Winthrop on the Mexican 
War, to allow the use of his name as a candidate. 
But, unwilling to enter public life, and to expose him- 
self to the imputation of having been actuated by 
selfish motives in writing the letter, he repeatedly 
declined to let himself be nominated. But his fitness 
was so evident and supreme, that the friends of free- 
dom at a mass-meeting in Tremont Temple on Octo- 
ber 29th, and during his absence in Maine filling lec- 
ture engagements, nominated him, notwithstanding 
his repeated refusals to permit himself to be placed 
in nomination, as an independent candidate for Con- 

Dr. S. G. Howe called the meeting to order, and 
Charles Francis Adams was chosen to preside. The 
high estimation in which Mr. Sumner was held at the 
time in the city may be gathered from the report of 
the committee appointed to draft resolutions and 
name a candidate, of which John A. Andrew, then a 



young member of the Suffolk bar, was chairman. 
The last of a series of resolutions reported by the 
committee reads as follows : 

" Resolved, That we recommend to the citizens of 
of this district as a candidate for representative in the 
National Congress a man raised by his pure character 
above reproach, whose firmness, intelligence, dis- 
tinguished ability, rational patriotism, manly inde- 
pendence, and glowing love of liberty and truth 
entitle him to the unbought confidence of his fellow- 
citizens— CHARLES SUMNER, of Boston— fitted 
to adorn any station, always found on the side of the 
Right, and especially worthy at the present crisis to 
represent the interests of the city and the cardinal 
principles of Truth, Justice, Liberty, and Peace, which 
have not yet died out from the hearts of her citizens." 

The nominee returned to Boston late the next 
evening, and on learning that he had been put in 
nomination for Congress, penned at once and gave 
to the public a positive and explicit withdrawal 
of his name. Dr. Howe was thereupon selected as a 
candidate instead, and consented u to stand and be 
shot at," under the circumstances. Sumner threw him- 
self into the canvass with his customary earnestness 
and energy, giving to his friend at a public meeting in 
Tremont Temple on the night of November 5th, an 
enthusiastic support in a learned and elaborate 
speech on slavery and the Mexican War, in which he 
again reviewed Mr. Winthrop's political conduct with 
scathing effect, declaring him unfit to " represent the 
feeling palpitating in Massachusetts' bosom," and so 
often expressed by her legislature on the subject of 
slavery. In that address he voiced a truth which 


was vital then and is vital now. " In his vote for the 
Mexican War," Sumner pointed out in his speech, 
" Mr. Winthrop was not a Whig. He then left the 
party, for surely," and herein lies the truth vital now 
as then, " for surely the party is not where numbers 
prevail, but where its principles are recognized." 

Although Mr. Winthrop was reelected by a large 
majority at the polls, still the more than thirteen 
hundred votes which were cast for Dr. Howe was an 
auspicious omen of future advances of the political 
revolution which had begun to assume moral and 
numerical importance in the old Bay State, in regard 
to slavery. " Even, if we seem to fail in this elec- 
tion," Sumner had said in his address, supporting 
Dr. Howe's candidacy, " we shall not fail in reality. 
The influence of this effort will help to awaken and 
organize that powerful public opinion by which this 
war will at last be arrested." It did not arrest the war, 
but it did help to awaken and organize that powerful 
public sentiment by which the spread of slavery to 
the new national territories acquired at the close of 
the war was at last arrested. 

Sumner's opposition to the " unjust and cowardly 
war in the cause of slavery," as he stigmatized the 
Mexican war, carried him before the Supreme Court 
of Massachusetts, in January, 1847, with a view to 
test the validity of enlistments in the regiment of vol- 
unteers for the war raised in that State. Before the 
departure of the regiment for the field of operations, 
several of the younger volunteers, repenting their 
precipitate action, applied through counsel to the 
Supreme Court of the commonwealth for their dis- 
charge because of the invalidity of their enlistments. 

1 86 


At the hearing, Sumner, who appeared for one of the 
repentant recruits, attacked the proceedings by which 
the regiment was organized, denying in the first 
place that the Act of Congress, under which they 
were had, was in accordance with the Constitution; in 
the second place that the enlistments were in con- 
formity to the Act, and in the third place that his 
client, being a minor, was bound by his contract of 
enlistment. The Court decided against Sumner on 
his first and second points, but in his favor on the 
third, and accordingly discharged his client from his 
military engagement. 

This determined opposition to the war, Sumner 
followed up a month later in an effective speech in 
Feneuil Hall demanding the immediate withdrawal 
of the American troops from Mexico and the cessa- 
tion of hostilities. In his regard, his country was 
wrong and Mexico right. Therefore, it was the duty 
of his country to retreat at once from the wrong it 
was committing. " Few if any of the conspicuous 
advocates for the maintenance of this war could hes- 
itate," said he, " if found wrong in any private trans- 
action, to retreat at once. . . . Such should be the 
conduct ot the nation ; for it cannot be said too often, 
that the general rules of morals are the same for 
individuals and States." 

Sumner during the year 1847, not only attacked 
slavery directly from the political platform, but by a 
literary stratagem brought his guns to bear upon it 
from the lecture platform as well. A lecture by him, 
however finished and eloquent, on the subject of 
slavery in this country would not have been tolerated 
by the lecture lyceums before whom he was a fre- 


I8 7 

quent speaker. But what was not permitted to him 
to accomplish by direction, he achieved by indirection, 
and White Slavery in the Barbary States, which 
formed the title and theme of an admirable anti-slav- 
ery discourse delivered by him in Boston, and in 
many places in Massachusetts before popular audi- 
ences. In exposing the barbarism of white slavery 
in Africa, he exposed the barbarism of black slavery 
in America ; and in arousing among his hearers sym- 
pathy for the victims of man's inhumanity to man in 
foreign lands, he was exciting it also for those 
unhappy wretches of oppression at home. In breed- 
ing hatred and abhorrenee of the one, he was, in fine, 
breeding it at the same time of the other also. 

" From such a scene," exclaimed the lecturer at the 
end of a long chapter of horrors; " from such a scene 
we gladly turn away, while, in the sincerity of our 
hearts, we give our sympathies to the unhappy suf- 
ferers. Fain would we avert their fate ; fain would 
we destroy the system of bondage that has made 
them wretched and their masters cruel. And yet we 
must not judge with harshness the Algerian slave- 
owner, who, reared in a religion of slavery, learned to 
regard Christians guilty of a skin not colored like his 
own as lawful prey, and found sanctions for his con- 
duct in the injunctions of the Koran, the customs of 
his country, and the instinctive dictates of an imag- 
ined self-interest. It is, then, the peculiar institution 
which we are aroused to execrate, rather than the 
Algerian slave-masters glorying in its influence, nor 
perceiving their foul disfigurement." The blows of 
the hero was beginning to fall, fast and furious, on 
the many-headed scourge of the land. 



Defeated in the Whig State Convention of 1846, 
Sumner carried his cause directly to the people. 
Perhaps, they could put an anti-slavery soul into the 
Whig body. Thenceforth his hammering on the 
anvil of public opinion was incessant. The sparks 
began to fly fast and far. Gloriously in earnest was 
the man. He glowed and flamed with an unconquer- 
able spirit and purpose. Such tremendous ardor, as 
was his, became contagious. From mind to mind 
the kindling frenzy passed, until in time Massachu- 
setts was alight and ablaze from the hills to the sea. 
Now, as we have seen, his fulcrum was the Mexican 
War, now the lack of an anti-slavery backbone in a 
national statesman like Winthrop, now it was "White 
Slavery in the Barbary States." With the strong lever 
of humanity he was steadily tilting to its downfall a 
world of pro-slavery prejudice and sympathy in the 
Bay State. From the platform, at the bar, through 
the press, he was scattering burning coals, seeds of 
high resolves. The coals were thawing the ice 
from the popular heart, the seeds were to spring up 
up in an abundant crop of anti-slavery zeal and 

Sumner expected that this rising tide of opposition 
to slavery would take one of two courses, either 


through the old Whig channel, or, if obstructed, then 
by a new one which it would make for itself. This 
expectation was not disappointed. The swelling 
flood sought, at first, to pour itself through the exist- 
ing political conduit. The attempt was not success- 
ful. With accumulated strength and volume it was 
ultimately thrown back upon the second way. 

The young anti-slavery leader, at a meeting held 
in Boston, September 15, 1847, for the purpose of 
choosing delegates to the annual Whig State Conven- 
tion, in anticipation of the acquisition of new national 
territory, at the close of the war with Mexico, tried 
without avail to commit the meeting to the demand 
" that there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary 
servitude therein, otherwise than for the punishment 
of crime." Undiscouraged by this fresh proof of the 
incorrigibility of the Whigs in regard to slavery, 
Sumner, at the head of the Whig delegation to the 
State Convention, made in the Convention a final 
effort to bring the Whig party to an avowal of anti- 
slavery principles. 

The Convention was, hopelessly, split into two 
hostile wings, designated in the political nomen- 
clature of the day, Cotton Whigs and Conscience 
Whigs. The former, for the sake of material interests, 
were for pursuing the old-time policy of silence and 
oblivion on the slavery question ; while the latter, for 
the sake of freedom, were for the adoption of an 
anti-slavery test in the selection of candidates, by the 
next National Whig Convention for the Presidency and 
Vice-presidency of the United States. A resolution 
was introduced recommending Webster, who was 
present to try, doubtless, upon the two warring wings 



of the Convention the spell of his imposing influ- 
ence and eloquence, as a candidate for the Presidency. 
But, nothing daunted, the Conscience Whigs, through 
John G. Palfrey, moved the following amendment to 
the resolution, viz.: "Resolved, That the Whigs of 
Massachusetts will support no men for the offices of 
President and Vice-president but such as are known 
by their acts or declared opinions to be opposed to 
the extension of slavery." This amendment brought 
on a sharp engagement between the two hostile 
camps of the Convention. Conspicuous in this 
struggle, on the one side, were Robert C. Winthrop 
and John C. Gray, and on the other were Palfrey, 
Charles Francis Adams, and Charles Sumner. 

Sumner's speech in support of the amendment was 
startlingly bold and defiant of consequences. " Alone 
in the company of nations," he thundered, " our 
country assumes the championship of this hateful 
institution. Far away in the East, at ' the gateways 
of the day,' by the sacred waters of fhe Ganges, in 
effeminate India, slavery is condemned ; in Con- 
stantinople, queenly seat of the most powerful 
Mahometan empire, where barbarism still mingles 
with civilization, the Ottoman sultan brands it with 
the stigma of disapprobation ; the Barbary States of 
Africa are changed to Abolitionists ; from the un- 
tutored ruler of Morocco comes the declaration of 
his, stamped in the formal terms of a treaty, that the 
very name of slavery may perish from the minds of 
men ; and only recently from the Bey of Tunis has 
proceeded that noble act by which, * for the glory of 
God, and to distinguish man from the brute creation,' 
— I quote his own words — he decreed its total aboli- 


tion throughout his dominions. Let Christian 
America be taught by these despised Mahometans. 
God forbid that our Republic — ' heir of all the ages, 
in the foremost files of time ' — should adopt anew the 
barbarism and cruelty they have renounced or con- 

But coming directly to the point of the debate, noth- 
ing could exceed the fearlessness of his tone. " On 
the present occasion," he said, " we can only declare 
our course. But this should be in language sternly 
expressive of our determination. It will not be enough 
merely to put forth opinions in well-couched phrase, 
and add yet other resolutions to the hollow words 
which have passed into the limbo of things lost on 
earth. We must give to our opinions that edge and 
force which they can have only from the declared 
determination to abide by them at all times. We 
must carry them to the ballot-box, and bring our can- 
didates to their standard. The recent constitution of 
Louisiana, to discourage duelling, disqualifies all 
engaged in a duel from holding any civil office. The 
Whigs of Massachusetts, so far as in them lies, must 
pronounce a similar sentence of disqualification 
upon all not known to be against the extension of 
slavery. . . . 

" I urge this course at the present moment from 
deep conviction of its importance. And, be assured, 
sir, whatever the final determination of this Conven- 
tion, there are many here to-day will never yield 
support to any candidate, for Presidency or Vice- 
presidency, who is not known to be against the exten- 
sion of slavery, even though he have freshly received 
the sacramental unction of a ' regular nomination.' 


We cannot say with detestable morality, ' Our party, 
right or wrong.' The time has gone by when gentle- 
men can expect to introduce among us the discipline 
of the camp. Loyalty to principle is higher than 
loyalty to party. . . . Far above any flickering 
light or battle-lantern of party is the everlasting Sun 
of Truth, in whose beams are the duties of men." 

The amendment was defeated. The Cotton wing of 
the Convention triumphed in a show of hands. Alto- 
gether too strong for the Whig bottles, proved the 
anti-slavery wine. Sumner's early hope that his 
party would become the party of freedom and human- 
ity, was now wholly quenched. After this he entered 
no more a Whig State Convention. For he saw 
clearly enough then that the Whigs were joined to 
their two masters, Webster and Slavery. The Cotton 
wing of the party in Massachusetts was devoted to 
the former, and he in turn was given up, body and 
soul, to the service of self and the dear Union. From 
neither was humanity able, thenceforth, to extract a 
single generous word or act. 

Sumner had now approached a crisis in his life. He 
was about to break away from a party which com- 
prised the culture and wealth of the city and State to 
which he belonged. But the commanding ability of 
the young orator and leader had been so signally dis- 
played during the two previous years, in those notable 
orations, " The True Grandeur of Nations," and " The 
Scholar, the Jurist, the Artist, the Philanthropist," 
as well as in other capital performances — political, 
academic, and popular — that even this powerful party 
with Webster at its head, could not now sneer or 
frown him down. Sumnei was already famous, and 



the centre of a fast-widening influence in Massachu- 
setts. Such a man as he was must have seemed an 
utter enigma to one like Webster. The moral passion 
and exaltation which distinguished the younger 
leader, the elder had long extinguished in himself. 
But the celestial fires which ambition had smothered 
in the breast of Webster, Sumner was fanning to a 
fierce heat on his own heart's altar. What the former 
refused to undertake, destiny called the latter to 

Sumner's public and formal renunciation of his 
relations with the Whig party was made in the latter 
part of June, 1848, following the action of the 
National Convention of that party in Philadelphia 
during the first of the month, in nominating a South- 
ern slaveholder for the Presidency. Both of the old 
parties through their national conventions this year, 
demonstrated their utter worthlessness as anti- 
slavery instruments. Nothing in that regard could 
be expected from the Democratic organization, since 
in deference to the South, it placed in nomination 
for the Presidency a Northern man who had recanted 
his free State opinions on the Wilmot Proviso. 
Lewis Cass, if not exactly a Northern man with 
Southern principles, was, at least, a Northern man 
under Southern influences, and, therefore, according 
to Sumner's well-known political test, was not fit to 
represent the free States in the National Government, 
much less to be chosen by their votes as the head of 
that Government. 

But the Whigs, in their selection of General Tay- 
lor, showed an even more shameless subserviency to 
Southern influences. This action advertised the 

i 9 4 


friends of freedom, that thenceforth they need ex- 
pect no anti-slavery performance from that party, 
which was the signal for secession of the more de- 
termined of its anti-slavery membership, and the 
starting of a new movement devoted to uncompro- 
mising opposition to the farther spread of slavery in 
the Union. Two Massachusetts delegates to the 
National Convention raised boldly in that body the 
standard of revolt. Charles Allen, and Henry Wil- 
son, upon the nomination of General Taylor, declared 
their refusal to support him as a candidate for the 
Presidency. And so the great Whig bolt of forty-four 
years ago was inaugurated before the adjournment of 
the Convention. 

The reception of the news of the nomination in 
Massachusetts verified the threatening prediction of 
Sumner made the previous autumn to the Whig State 
Convention, " that there are many here to-day who 
will never yield support to any candidate, for Presi- 
dency or Vice-Presidency, who is not known to be 
against the extension of slavery, even though he have 
freshly received the sacramental unction of a ' regular 
nomination.' " Nothing was now left to such people, 
Sumner among them, who desired to operate politi- 
cally against the national evil, but to proceed to the 
organization of a new party to that end. The state 
of the North on the slavery question indicated 
plainly enough that the time was ripe for organized 
resistance to the extension and to the increasing pre- 
tensions of the peculiar institution of the South. 
This was particularly true of Massachusetts, where, 
after the Whig fiasco, a call was promptly issued for 
a convention, to found a new party of freedom. 



This convention met in Worcester, June 28, 1848. 
There was no hall in the city large enough to accom- 
modate the excited and enthusiastic multitude, who 
had, in response to the call, assembled from all parts of 
the State to the number of about five thousand souls, 
on fire with hatred of slavery. It was on the Common, 
in the open air that the founding of the Free Soil party, 
in Massachusetts, proceeded that memorable June day. 
The speeches of Samuel Hoar, who was made president 
of the permanent organization of the mass Conven- 
tion, of Henry Wilson, Charles Allen, Joshua Leavitt, 
Joshua R. Giddings, J. C. Lovejoy, Charles Francis 
Adams, of Sumner, and others, rose, in the deter- 
mined manhood of them to the level of the emerg- 
ency. Old party ties were, then and there, renounced 
by each of the speakers, and by none more distinctly 
and forcibly than by Charles Sumner, who, beyond 
all the others, embodied in himself the stern spirit 
and purpose of the anti-slavery revolution, spreading 
through the free States, and manifesting itself in in- 
dependent political action. 11 A party which re- 
nounces its sentiments," he said, firmly, " must expect 
to be renounced. In the coming contest I wish it 
understood that I belong to the party of Freedom, — 
to that party which plants itself on the Declaration 
of Independence, and the Constitution of the United 

He was one of the first to perceive the necessity of a 
freedom-power to match and master the slave-power. 
"The lovers of freedom," said he at this time, "from 
both parties, and irrespective of all party associa- 
tions, must unite, and by new combination, congenial 
to the Constitution, oppose both candidates. This 



will be the FREEDOM-POWER, whose single ob- 
ject will be to resist the SLAVE-POWER. We will 
put them face to face and let them grapple. Who 
can doubt the result?" 

He refused to choose between two evils. He had 
no choice when such were presented to him. He 
must needs reject both. Both Cass and Taylor were 
evils, and, as such, he rejected them. He admitted, 
however, that " There are occasions of political diff- 
erence . . . when it may become expedient to vote 
for a candidate who does not completely represent 
our sentiments. There are matters legitimately 
within the range of expediency and compromise. 
The tariff and the currency are of this character. 
If a candidate differs from me on these, more or less, 
I may yet vote for him. But the question before the 
country is of another character. This will not admit 
of compromise. It is not within the domain of expe- 
diency. To be wrong on this is to be wholly wrong." 

Replying to the taunt that to vote for a third party 
candidate, was to throw away votes and to fail, he 
exclaimed in words which must long have burned in 
the hearts of his hearers : " Fail, sir ! No honest, 
earnest effort in a good cause can fail. It may not 
be crowned with the applause of man ; it may not 
seem to touch the goal of immediate worldly success, 
which is the end and aim of so much of life. But it 
is not lost. It helps to strengthen the weak with 
new virtue — to arm the irresolute with proper energy 
— to animate all with devotion to duty, which in the 
end conquers all. Fail ! Did the martyrs fail, when 
with precious blood they sowed the seed of the 
Church ? Did the discomfited champions of freedom 



fail, who have left those names in history that can 
never die ? Did the three hundred Spartans fail, 
when, in the narrow pass, they did not fear to brave 
the innumerable Persian hosts, whose very arrows 
darkened the sun ? Overborne by numbers, crushed 
to earth, they left an example greater far than any 
victory. And this is the least we can do. Our exam- 
ple will be the mainspring of triumph hereafter. It 
will not be the first time in history that the hosts of 
slavery have outnumbered the champions of free- 
dom. But where is it written that slavery finally 
prevailed ? " 

At the close of the mass convention at Worcester, 
the new political movement may be said to have been 
fully launched upon the tide of public opinion in 
Massachusetts. That it had come to stay, all the 
auguries of the times were loudly prophesying and 
proclaiming. That it would finally prevail seemed 
to a soul like Sumner a foregone conclusion. His 
confidence on that day in regard to the immediate 
results it was destined to produce, subsequent events 
amply justified. It " will sweep the heart-strings of 
the people," he declared. " It will smite all the 
chords with a might to draw forth emotions such as 
no political struggle ever awakened before." 

On the 9th of August following the great anti-slav- 
ery demonstration at Worcester, a convention of the 
free States, held at Buffalo, nominated for the Presi- 
dency and the Vice-Presidency respectively, on a 
Free Soil platform, Martin Van Buren, of New York, 
and Charles Francis Adams, of Massachusetts. "We 
inscribe on our banners," so ran a resolve of the Buf- 
falo Convention, " Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, 



and Free Men ; and under it will fight on and fight 
ever, until a triumphant victory shall reward our 
exertions." Those words struck all the chords in the 
breasts of thousands at the North, became the 
watchword of the stirring campaign, inaugurated by 
the new party of freedom upon the adjournment of 
the convention. 

The political antecedents of the Buffalo nominees 
betokened, as nothing else could, the wide trend 
which the new movement was taking. Van Buren 
had been the foremost and most powerful of the vet- 
eran chieftains of the Democratic party, and Adams 
was one of the most influential and able of the younger 
leaders of the Massachusetts Whigs. It is well known 
that Webster, himself, hesitated for a while, with 
divided mind, between the new party of freedom, and 
the old Whig organization, with Zachary Taylor at 
its head. Like Van Buren in respect of the Demo- 
cratic nomination, he had set his soul on the Whig 
nomination. They were both in obedience to the 
Southern wings of their respective parties, pushed 
from their stools and others, more satisfactory 
to the slave-power, seated in their places. Dis- 
appointed ambition and a thirst for revenge hur- 
ried Van Buren into actual revolt, and drove Web- 
ster nearly to the same length, in opposition to the 
candidacy of General Taylor. The supreme and cal- 
culating selfishness of the latter, however, conquered 
finally the fierce passion for revenge, and saved him 
for four sorry years to the service of the Whigs and 
their imperious master, the slave despotism of the 

If Webster, mutinous because of his personal de- 



feat, stood irresolute during a few sullen weeks be- 
tween the camp of the new movement and that of the 
Whigs, there were thousands of his old friends and 
followers, mutinous because of the defeat of Liberty, 
who betrayed no irresolution, but ranged themselves 
promptly under the banner flung to the breeze by the 
Free Soil party, as the great meeting in Faneuil 
Hall, on August 22, called to ratify the nominations 
of the Buffalo Convention, grandly attested. Over 
this meeting Charles Sumner was fitly chosen to pre- 
side. To him, Webster failing them, the hopes of 
anti-slavery Massachussetts turned for leadership, as 
to no other man, in the mighty political struggle with 
the slave-power then impending. Against a combi- 
nation, resolute and uncompromising, the moral in- 
stincts of Massachusetts were reaching out toward a 
champion, not less determined and unyielding. 

Sumner's opening speech at the ratification meet- 
ing furnished additional proof, if, indeed, such were 
needed, that if the hour of the irrepressible conflict 
in the Bay State had struck, God had provided the 
man for the crisis. There was a moral force and mo- 
mentum of purpose, of the right, about him, which 
rendered him singular, preeminent, amongthe political 
opponents of slavery, not alone in Massachusetts but 
throughout the free States. Whatever he did, wher- 
ever he appeared, whenever he spoke, whether directly 
on the subject of slavery, or on some other topic, he 
gave more and more now an impression as of a man 
possessed, burning up, with the fires of one supreme 
idea. There now began to run through all his polit- 
ical utterances, a sameness of thought, a repetition of 
argument and historical reference and illustration, an 



impressive, an almost imposing, uniformity of passion 
and power. All his knowledge of universal history, 
all his vast readings in the world of letters, all his 
immense acquisitions as a jurist, seemed now but so 
many splendid tributaries to feed and serve this one 
idea, to raise the strong current of his love and devo- 
tion to the level of its utmost demands. By the side 
of this one idea, all other questions sank from his 
view. He recognized but one question before the 
country, calling for settlement, and that was his cause, 
the cause of humanity. " No longer," said he with 
characteristic phraseology and confidence, " will banks 
and tariffs occupy the foremost place, and, sounding 
always with the chink of dollars and cents, give their 
tone to the policy of the country. Henceforward, 
Protection to Man will be the true American Sys- 
tem." It is his glory that more than any other polit- 
ical leader of the times, he endeavored to make this 
noble prophecy reality in the life of the North. And 
though the actual results fell short, wretchedly short 
of the splendid expectation, yet it cannot be doubted 
that there did pass a novel virtue, a moral force, into 
the politics of the free States, which wrought mightily 
eve*afterward for the protection of man in America. 

In the campaign, which the Faneuil Hall ratification 
meeting inaugurated in Massachusetts, Sumner ren- 
dered signal service to the new party on the stump, 
addressing /large audiences all over the State, from 
the sea to the hills. But this was not the sum of his 
contributions to the Free Soil movement during this 
first year of its appearance as a national organization. 
His pen was as busy as was his tongue in its behalf. He 
accepted besides the Free Soil nomination for Con- 


gress from the Boston district. The men who nomi- 
nated knew, and he knew, that he would not be elected. 
But the time had come when it was the duty of the 
friends of freedom to stand together at the ballot-box, 
and to make a show of hands for the sake of their 
principles. Union now was the watchword, and self- 
sacrifice and labor. It was peculiarly Sumner's, and 
hence he cheerfully took the post assigned him in the 
contest, notwithstanding his early and strong disin- 
clination to enter upon a political career. 

" It has been my desire and determination," he 
wrote the Committee which informed him of his 
nomination, " to labor in such fields of usefulness as 
are open to every private citizen, without the honor, 
emolument, or constraint of office. I would show by 
example (might I so aspire?) that something may 
be done for the welfare of our race, without the 
support of public station or the accident of popular 
favor. In this course I hope to persevere." Happily 
for mankind this lofty aspiration of the young scholar 
was not down in the book of destiny. For him the 
Fates had quite other plans, with the execution of 
which, all unconscious to himself, they were, at the 
moment, busily engaged. 

The estimation in which Sumner was held at this 
time in Massachusetts may be gathered from words 
of a man of so much mental sang-froid, as was Charles 
Francis Adams, uttered by him on the occasion of 
the last rally for freedom in Faneuil Hall, on the 
night of November 9th, and in Mr. Sumner's absence 
from the meeting. Said Mr. Adams: "Charles Sum- 
ner is a man of large heart — not of that class of poli- 
ticians who calculate availability, and the numbers 

2 02 


of the opposition, but a man who takes an enlarged 
view of a noble system of action, and places his 
shoulder to the wheel to move it forward. He is 
now doing more to impress on the country a new and 
powerful moral sentiment in connection with the 
movement than any man or any other ten men in the 
country." That certainly sounds like enthusiastic 
praise, and it may be extravagant praise. But this 
much it is safe to assert: that the reform in Massa- 
chusetts had found in a young jurist of thirty- 
seven its preeminent representative. Subsequent 
events proved that there were others in the country 
who equaled him in intellectual force, and in some 
particular lines of political leadership excelled him, 
as did S. P. Chase in practical statesmanship, and 
W. H. Seward and Henry Wilson in party manage- 
ment. But in moral oneness of purpose and mo- 
mentum of character he was unrivaled. And at this 
juncture of the conflict between freedom and slav- 
ery in the Republic, those were the qualities, above 
all others, which freedom required her champions to 
possess. In sheer weight of intellect Webster had 
no peer in the public life cf the land. But, lacking 
the moral qualities which distinguished Sumner, the 
Godlike Daniel was thrust from his throne that an- 
other might mount it. Sumner's feet, without his 
knowing it, were already upon the steps of Webster's 
throne in Massschusetts. 

Another capital qualification of Sumner for leader- 
ship at this crisis was the clearness with which he 
apprehended the difference between political oppo- 
sition to slavery, and the moral agitation against it 
which looked to general and immediate emancipa- 



tion as a direct end. He well knew that a political 
party in America could not address itself success- 
fully to such an end. For the political power of the 
Union could not reach slavery within the States. 
Party action had necessarily to proceed along Con- 
stitutional lines, in order to acquire and retain the 
confidence and support of the people. Slavery was 
local, and drew its life from municipal institutions. 
In the absence of positive law creating the evil, it 
had no standing in the national forum. 

To his scholar's ear, the history of the country 
sounded but one note — the note of freedom. To his 
jurist's eye, the Constitution on no page and in no 
line sanctioned the holding of property in men. 
Freedom was national, slavery was sectional. He 
opposed slavery, therefore, wherever the nation was 
responsible for it, whether in the District of Colum- 
bia, or in the national Territories, or on the high seas 
under the national colors. Here he stopped, wisely 
circumscribing his political aims and duties by his 
political reponsibilities. His aim as a political re- 
former was, in fine, to place the National Govern- 
ment " openly, actively, and perpetually, on the side 
of freedom." 

The months from the formation of the Free Soil 
party to the meeting of Congress in December, 1849, 
were months of steadily increasing excitement on the 
subject of slavery. The slave-power, repeatedly at- 
tempting, had repeatedly failed to open the national 
Territories to slave immigration. Over Oregon, in 
1848, there had occurred in Congress a fierce prelimi- 
nary trial of strength between the sections. The 
South was thrown in the struggle, and the anti-slavery 



principles of the Ordinance of 1787 were applied to the 
Territory. Defeated at this point, the slave States 
threw themselves with determined purpose upon 
California and New Mexico, in order to effect an open- 
ing into them for the peculiar institution, and thereby 
to preserve the political balance of the federal system 
in its favor. But to every such attempt the North 
opposed a resolute front and wall of resistance to the 
farther extension of slavery under the Constitution. 
Nevertheless, Calhoun and the South clung to the 
pretension of the self-extension of the evil under that 

Baffled and at bay, they directly set up the cry that 
the stronger section was oppressing the weaker, un- 
justly depriving it of its Constitutional rights and 
equality in the Union. Disunion sentiments were 
flagrantly professed and passionately preached from 
this time at the South. The controversy invaded 
religious bodies, and churches resounded with the 
clash and clangor of conflicting moral and social 
ideas and interests, and began to part asunder along 
sectional lines. 

The application of California for admission into 
the Union, as a free State, unloosed the winds, and 
gave to the rising tempest its tongue of thunder. In 
the lurid glare of the crisis it was presently dis- 
covered that Calhoun, about to die, had paused, 
with the South at his back, on the brink of disunion. 
Then, terror-stricken for the fate of their dear Union, 
Northern Whigs and Northern Democrats lifted 
again on deck the old pilot of compromise. Webster, 
with one eye on the Union and the other on the Presi- 
dency, drew down the proud colors of Liberty from 



his dishonored old iron sides, and drifted away in the 
wake of the slave-power. On March 7, 1850, the 
great New Englander, and eulogist of the Pilgrim 
Fathers, flung the whole weight of his powerful 
voice and influence in the scales against the slave. 
California was admitted as a free State, but the 
Fugitive Slave Bill was enacted into law. Again was 
Webster's glorious Union saved at heavy cost to 

From the passage of that wicked law, the anti- 
slavery tide in Massachusetts rose rapidly to its flood. 
The overthrow of Webster, Winthrop, and the Whigs 
followed swiftly in its course. After Sumner, although 
a United States Commissioner, denounced the in- 
famous act, from the platform of Faneuil Hall, in a 
speech of extraordinary boldness and energy, an- 
nouncing his resolute purpose to refuse his official 
aid to its execution in the memorable sentence, " I 
cannot forget that I am a man, although I am a 
commissioner" Massachusetts was not long in seeing 
that she had found Webster's successor. Webster's 
political crown and leadership were, in truth, then 
and there transferred to the brow of Sumner. 

The reader must have a passage or two from this 
speech which was said to have made Mr. Sumner Sen- 
ator. " The soul sickens," — he is denouncing the Fu- 
gitive Slave Law — " in the contemplation of this legal- 
ized outrage. In the dreary annals of the past there 
are many acts of shame, there are ordinances of mon- 
archs, and laws, which have become a by-word and a 
hissing to the nations. But when we consider the 
country and the age, I ask fearlessly, what act of 
shame, what ordinance of monarch, what law, can 



compare in atrocity with this enactment of an 
American Congress ? I do not forget Appius 
Claudius, tyrant Decemvir of ancient Rome, con- 
demning Virginia as a slave, nor Louis the Four- 
teenth, of France, letting slip the dogs of religious 
persecution by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 
nor Charles the First of England, arousing the 
patriot rage of Hampden by the extortion of ship- 
money, nor the British Parliament, provoking in our 
country spirits kindred to Hampden, by the tyranny 
of the Stamp Act and Tea Tax. I would not 
exaggerate ; I wish to keep within bounds ; but I 
think there can be little doubt that the condemnation 
now affixed to all these transactions, and to their 
authors, must be thelat hereafter of the Fugitive Slave 
Bill, and of every one, according to the measure of 
his influence, who gave it his support. Into the im- 
mortal catalogue of national crimes it has now 
passed, drawing by inexorable necessity its authors 
also, and chiefly him, who, as President of the United 
States, set his name to the Bill, and breathed into it 
that final breath without which it would bear no 
life. Other Presidents may be forgotten, but the 
name signed to the Fugitive Slave Bill can never be 
forgotten. There are depths of infamy, as there are 
heights of fame. I regret to say what I must, but 
truth compels me. Better for him had he never 
been born. Better for his memory and for the good 
name of his children had he never been President." 

So much for the Black Bill and its authors. Here 
is another passage like unto it : " Elsewhere he may 
pursue his human prey," the orator is now fulmining 
against the slave-hunter, "employ his congenial 


bloodhounds, and exult in his successful game ; but 
into Massachusetts he must not come. Again, let me 
be understood. I counsel no violence. I would not 
touch his person. Not with whips and thongs would 
I scourge him from the land. The contempt, the 
indignation, the abhorrence of the community shall 
be our weapons of offense. Wherever he moves, he 
shall find no house to receive him, no table spread 
to nourish him, no welcome to cheer him. The dis- 
mal lot of the Roman exile shall be his. He shall be 
a wanderer, without roof, fire, or water. Men shall 
point at him in the streets, and on the highways. . . . 
Villages, towns, and cities shall refuse to receive the 
monster ; they shall vomit him forth, never again to 
disturb the repose of our community." 

To the imbecile boast that the Compromise meas- 
ures of 1850, had settled the slavery question, he 
replied thus : " Yes, settled — settled — that is the word. 
Nothing, sir, can be settled which is not right." Warn- 
ing the friends of freedom against lightly reposing 
confidence in weak and irresolute men, he gave them 
as a guide to conduct his famous recipe, which runs 
as follows : " Three things at least they must 
require : the first is backbone ; the second is backbone ; 
and the third is backbone." 

This speech was made November 6, 1850, just before 
the annual elections in Massachusetts, which com- 
prised that year State officers, members of Congress, 
and members of both branches of the Legislature. 
The multiplicity of political combinations which 
arose in the State at this time, for the purpose of 
influencing the elections, indicated a general break- 
ing up of the old parties in Massachusetts, and a gen- 



eral growth of the new organization. There were 
combinations in at least two of the Congressional 
districts between Whigs and Free Soilers, while 
combinations prevailed generally in the Senatorial 
districts between Democrats and Free Soilers. 
Indeed, there was a close alliance of these two par- 
ties during the campaign, the bargain being between 
the parties of the first and of the second parts of this 
coalition, that the Democrats should have the State 
officers, and the Free Soilers the United States Sena- 
tor for the long term, to be chosen to the vacancy- 
made by Mr. Webster's resignation of the office for 
the Secretaryship of State in Millard Fillmore's 

The Democratic and Free Soil coalition triumphed 
in the elections, and in due time it proceeded to the 
division of the various offices, in accordance with the 
ante-election understanding between the parties. 
Owing to the majority principle, which was at that 
time incorporated in the Constitution of the State, 
and the failure of some of the candidates for State 
offices to receive a majority of the votes, their elec- 
tion was thrown into the Legislature, which was con- 
trolled by the Democrats and the Free Soilers. The 
former were awarded the Governor, Lieutenant-Gov- 
ernor, five of the nine councillors, the Treasurer, and 
the Senator for the short term ; the 1 latter got the 
Senator for the long term. 

The choice of the Free Soilers in the Legislature, in 
the State at large, and, in fact, throughout the 
North, fell with singular unanimity upon Sumner, as 
an almost ideal representative of Free Soil princi- 
ples. To the Democrats in the Legislature and in 



the State at large, he was, possibly, the least objec- 
tionable candidate with Whig antecedents, who 
could have been presented for their suffrages on the 
Senatorship subject. Sumner had never been a Whig 
partisan, had not identified himself actively with dis- 
tinctively Whig principles and policies, such as were 
embraced in the Tariff and the Bank questions. The 
Democratic legislative caucus accepted him as the 
candidate of that party, and thereupon he became 
the joint candidate for the United States Senator- 
ship of the Free Soil and the Democratic members of 
the Legislature. 

In pursuance of the arrangement between the par- 
ties to the coalition, the Legislature elected George 
S. Boutwell and Henry W. Cushman, Democrats, 
Governor and Lieutenant-Governor, respectively, and 
subsequently, Robert Rantoul, Jr., another Demo- 
crat, Senator for the short term, expiring March 4, 
1851. The balloting for Senator for the long term 
was protracted and exciting, lasting from January 14th 
to April 24, 185 1, when Mr. Sumner was chosen by a 
majority of one on the twenty-sixth ballot in a total 
vote in the House of 384, the Senate on its part having 
elected him three months before to the same office. 1 
Robert C. Winthrop was, from beginning to end, the 
candidate of the Whigs for Webster's seat, and was, 
therefore, as far as numbers go, Sumner's principal 
opponent before the Legislature, for the long Sena- 
torial term. 

Throughout the long contest in the Legislature, 
Sumner observed strictly, deviated not the breadth of 
a hair, from the " rule of non-intervention" which he 
prescribed to himself touching his candidacy. " No 



man ever accepted office," justly remarked the Daily 
Commonwealth on the morning after his election, " with 
cleaner hands than Charles Sumner. He consented 
to receive the nomination with extreme reluctance. 
. . . After he was nominated, and an onslaught un- 
precedented for ferocity and recklessness in political 
warfare had seemed to render his election impossible, 
unless he would authorize some qualification of the 
alleged obnoxious doctrines of his speeches, particu- 
larly of his last Faneuil Hall speech, Mr. Sumner re- 
fused to retract, qualify, or explain. Ten lines from his 
pen — lines that a politician might have written without 
even the appearance of a change of sentiment — would 
have secured his election in January. No solicitation 
of friends or opponents could extort a line. A dele- 
gation of Hunkers applied to him for a few words to 
cover their retreat; in reply, he stated that he had no 
pledges to give, no explanations to make; he referred 
them to his published speeches for his position, and 
added that he had not sought the office, but, if it 
came to him, it must find him an independent man. 
To another Democrat, who called on him on the same 
errand, he said, ' If by walking across my office I 
could secure the Senatorship, I would not take a 
step.' In February, he placed in the hands of General 
Wilson a letter authorizing that gentleman to with- 
draw his name, whenever, in his judgment, the good 
of the cause should require it." 

" In this matter, I pray you," so ran the letter to 
Henry Wilson above referred to, " do not think of 
me. I have no political prospects which I desire to 
nurse. There is nothing in the political field which 
I covet. Abandon me, then, whenever you think best, 



without notice or apology. The cause is everything ; 
I am nothing." So straight morally did the Free Soil 
candidate stand that he leaned backward. Surely he 
possessed to a singular degree the three requisites 
of a representative of freedom, demanded by him- 
self, backbone, backbone, backbone. He was distinctly 
and emphatically of the vertebrated breed of 

Averse to doing anything while the contest lasted 
to influence the vote of the Legislature in his favor, 
Sumner, after it was decided, was not less averse to 
having any demonstration made in connection with 
his election, which might give it the air of a personal 
triumph. It was not his triumph but the cause's. 
The cause was to be magnified under the circum- 
stances, not any man. The cause was everything, the 
individual nothing. Hence, he discountenanced a 
projected public demonstration at his own house on 
the evening of his election. His heart, said he, dic- 
tated silence. And no wonder. For his election was 
an event of the first magnitude in the politics of the 
times. It put upon him responsibilities which Atlan- 
tean shoulders could alone bear up under. Therefore, 
that evening he absented himself from Boston, be- 
taking himself to Cambridge and the home of his 
friend, Henry W. Longfellow, where he passed the 

There were joyful demonstrations of the friends of 
freedom in Boston that night, notwithstanding the 
flight of the victor beyond earshot of the paeans and 
the plaudits of his friends and followers. There was 
rejoicing of the friends of freedom throughout the 
North, because of this far-reaching achievement, 



which, indeed, cheered the hearts of good men and 
true, across the Atlantic as well. 

Congratulations poured upon him from every 
quarter, thick and fast. S. P. Chase wrote: " Laus 
Deo ! From the bottom of my heart I congratulate 
you — no, not you, but all friends of freedom 
everywhere — upon your election to the Senate." 
Joshua R. Giddings wrote from Ohio: " A most 
intense interest was felt in this whole region, 
and I have seen no event which has given greater joy 
to the population generally." Elihu Burritt wrote 
from England: "My soul is gladdened to great and 
exceeding joy at the news of your election to fill the 
place of Daniel Webster. It has been hailed by the 
friends of human freedom and progress in this country 
with exultation. There are more eyes and hearts 
fixed upon your course than upon that of any man in 
America." John G. Whittier wrote: "I rejoice that, 
unpledged, free, and without a single concession or 
compromise, thou art enabled to take thy place in 
the Senate. I never knew such a general feeling of 
real heart pleasure and satisfaction as is manifested 
by all except inveterate Hunkers in view of thy 
election. The whole country is electrified by it. 
Sick abed, I heard the guns, Quaker as I am, with 
real satisfaction." 

At the time of his election to the Senate, Charles 
Sumner had just turned forty. He was in the me- 
ridian of the intellectual life, and in the fullness of 
manly vigor and beauty. The splendid position he 
had reached by sheer worth — unrivaled services. Not 
before, nor since, we venture to assert, has public 
office been so utterly unsolicited. He turned not a 



finger, scorned to budge an inch, would not write a 
line to obtain the grand prize. It went to him by 
the laws of gravitation and character — to him the 
clean of hand and pure of soul. It was the Hour 
finding the Man. 



At the instant that Charles Sumner entered " that 
iron and marble body," as his friend Charles Francis 
Adams very fitly characterized the Senate of the 
United States of those days, the last of its early 
giants was leaving it forever. Calhoun had already 
passed away. Webster was in Millard Fillmore ; s cabi- 
net ; and Clay was escaping, in his own picturesque 
and pathetic phrase, " Scarred by spears and worried 
by wounds to draghis mutilated body to his lair and lie 
down and die." The representative of Compromise 
was making his exit from one door of the stage ; the 
representative of Conscience his entrance through 
another. Was it accident or prophecy ? Were the 
bells of Destiny ringing " in the valiant man and 
free, the larger heart, the kindlier hand " and ringing 
out " the darkness of the land " ? 

But, whether accident or prophecy, Sumner had 
advanced into the midst of a hostile camp. On 
either side enemies surrounded him. Southern 
Whigs and Southern Democrats hated him. North- 
ern Whigs and Northern Democrats likewise hated 
him. He was wholly without party affiliations — well- 
nigh friendless. But, thanks to the revolution which 
was working in the free States, he was not absolutely 
so. For William H Seward was already there, and 


Salmon P. Chase, and John P. Hale, and Hannibal 
Hamlin. Under these circumstances it behooved 
him to take no precipitate step. A smaller man, a 
leader less fearless and wise, might have blundered 
just here by leaping too hastily with his cause into 
the arena of debate. 

Sumner did nothing of the kind. His self-poise 
and control for nine months were simply admirable. 
" Endurance," says Lowell, "is the crowning quality, 
and patience all the passion of great hearts." Cer- 
tainly, during those trying months, they were Sum- 
ner's, the crowning quality and the passion. First 
the blade — he had to acquaint himself with the rou- 
tine and business of legislation ; then the ear — had 
to study the personnel of the Senate, become master 
of the situation. 

Four times he essayed his strength on subjects of 
inferior interest to the one which he was carrying in 
his heart, as mothers carry their unborn babes. 
Each trial of his parliamentary wings raised him in 
the estimation of friends and foes. His welcome to 
Kossuth, and his tribute to Robert Rantoul, Jr., 
proved him to be an accomplished orator. His 
speech on the Public Land question evinced him, 
besides, strong in history, argument, and law. 

No vehemence of anti-slavery pressure, no shock 
of angry criticism coming from home, was able to 
jostle him out of his fixed determination to speak 
only when he was ready, upon the paramount subject 
of his own and the nation's thoughts. Winter went 
and spring appeared, and yet his silence remained ; 
summer, too, was waning before he was really pre- 
pared to begin. Then, like an August storm, he 



burst on the Senate and the country in that powerful 
performance : " Freedom National ; Slavery Sec- 

Like all of Mr. Sumner's efforts, whether popular, 
parliamentary, or academic, this one was carefully 
written out and memorised. He was not absolutely 
incapable of speaking withoul this sort of prepara- 
tion, though what he said then was apt to lack 
spontaneity and the moral fervor, which distin- 
guished his written words. When speaking without 
the aid of manuscript preparation, his utterance 
acquired an air of what may be termed literary dic- 
tation — wanted the true requisite for the forcible dec- 
lamation of an orator. 

He was deficient in the qualities of the great 
debater, as the reader has probably surmised, was 
not able to think effectively on his feet, to give and 
take hard hits within the short range of extemporane- 
ous and hand-to-hand encounters. Clay and John 
Quincy Adams were preeminent in this species of 
intellectual warfare ; Webster and Calhoun were for- 
midable. Sumner, doubtless, never experienced that 
quick sympathy and marvelous interplay of emotion 
and intelligence between himself and an audience, 
which made Wendell Phillips the unrivaled monarch 
of the anti-slavery platform. Sumner's was the elo- 
quence of elaboration, rather than the eloquence of 
inspiration. What he did gave the impression of 
size, of length, breadth, thoroughness. He needed 
space, and he needed time. These granted, he could, 
indeed, be tremendous. 

He was tremendous on this occasion before the 
Senate. His theme furnishes the keynote and the 


keystone of his opposition to slavery. Garrison, 
Phillips, and Theodore D. Weld, appealed against 
the evil to a common humanity, to the primary moral 
instincts of mankind in condemnation of its villainies 
and oppressions. The appeal carried them beyond 
and above constitutions and codes to the unwritten 
and eternal Right. Sumner appealed against the 
institution to the self-evident truths of the Declara- 
tion of Independence, to the spirit and letter of the 
Constitution, to the sentiments and hopes OS the 
fathers, and to the early history and policy oi the 
country, which they had founded. 

All these were for freedom and against slavery. 
Their reverse was error. Public opinion was error- 
bound. The North was error-bound ; and so was 
the South. Parties and politicians were error-bound. 
Freedom was the heritage of the nation. Slav- 
ery had robbed it of its birthright. Slavery musi 
be disposessed. Cathago est delenda. As it was in 
the beginning, so it hath ever been, the world needs 
light. The great want of his country on the subject 
of slavery, Sumner believed to be light. This speech 
of his was but a repetition in a world of wrong of 
the Divine fiat, " Let there be light ! " Light burst 
from it upon the national darkness, such light as a 
thunderbolt scatters, shrivelling and shivering the 
deep-rooted Lie and Sin of the land. 

A new hour that speech struck for America. Not 
before in the Government had freedom touched so 
high a mark. Heretofore the slave-power had been 
arrogant and exacting. A keen observer might then 
have foreseen, that freedom, also, would some day 
become exacting and aggressive. For its advancing 



billows had broken in the resounding periods and 
passions of its eloquent champion. The manner of 
the orator, which marked all his public deliverances, 
was that of a man speaking with authority, of a man 
who defers to no one, prefers no one to himself. It 
was, in fine, the imperious manner of an orator con- 
scious of the possessions of great powers, and of 
ability to use them. 

Such a champion of freedom, as was Sumner, the 
crisis required. God made one American statesman 
without moral joints when he made Charles Sumner. 
He could not bend the supple hinges of the knee to 
the South, for he had none to bend. He must needs 
stand erect, inflexible, uncompromising, an image of 
Puritan harshness and Puritan grandeur. Against 
his granite-like character and convictions, the haughty 
will of the South was to hurl itself in vain. Orator 
and oration revealed to the slave-power, as in a magic 
mirror some things, which before had seemed indis- 
tinct and illusive, like " Birnam Wood " moving 
toward "high Dunsinane." But the miracle was 
now performed, the impossible had happened. The 
insurgent moral sense of a mudsill and shopkeeping 
North has at last found, in the Government, voice 
and vent. 

With what rising apprehensions must the South 
have listened to these bold and prophetic words. 
" The movement against slavery is from the Everlast- 
ing Arm. Even now it is gathering its forces soon 
to be confessed everywhere. It may not yet be felt 
in the high places of office and power; but all who 
can put their ears humbly to the ground will hear 
and comprehend its incessant and advancing tread." 


Before the delivery of this speech, Sumner had ob- 
tained a taste of the intolerance and tyranny of the 
"iron and marble body," in the interest of slavery. As 
early as July, he had endeavored to get the floor for 
remarks on the Fugitive Slave Law, and was thwarted 
by the vigilant hostility of the masters of the Senate. 
He did, however, hold the ear of that body long 
enough in July to notify it of his intention to move 
at an early day the repeal of the obnoxious law, and 
to explain why he had not attempted to address the 
members on the subject before. After this it was 
openly asserted that he should not be allowed to 
carry out his intention during the session then pend- 
ing. But the slave-power knew not the man whom 
it had determined to silence. 

Vigilantly watched as he was by his foes, he was 
no less vigilant in watching for a parliamentary 
opening for himself and his cause in the citadel of 
slavery. On August 26, 1852, the opening came, and 
quickly Sumner perceived it, and in a flash was 
through it and upon the floor of the Chamber. On 
that day, the Civil and Diplomatic Bill, being under 
consideration by the Senate, Mr. Hunter, of Vir- 
ginia, moved an amendment to the same to provide 
for the payment of sundry officers of the Govern- 
ment in the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law. 
Mr. Hunter was so intent upon safeguarding South- 
ern property, that, for the nonce, he quite forgot that 
he and his colleagues were trying to silence an alert 
and determined adversary. No sooner had he thus 
exposed his flanks than Sumner dashed promptly in 
with an amendment to the amendment — to wit, that 
no such allowance be authorized for any expenses 



incurred in executing the Fugitive Slave Bill, and 
that the same be repealed. It was in support of this 
amendment, and by this stratagem, that he finally 
obtained the floor, and made his first great speech 
against slavery in the Senate. 

Sumner did not limit his opposition to the giant 
wrong of the land to any particular place, or occa- 
sion, or mode of attack. He struck it whenever, 
wherever, and with whatsoever he got a chance. He 
made use, in the noblest sense, of all the means 
which God and Nature put within his reach to 
weaken and destroy the slave-power in the Govern- 
ment, and the cruel, proscriptive spirit which it 
generated toward the colored race in the free States. 
His argument in favor of equality before the law in 
Massachusetts, and against the constitutionality of 
separate colored schools in Boston, before the Sup- 
reme Court of that State, December 4, 1849, was 
action against the national iniquity along this line. 
He made for the time being the Supreme Court an 
anti-slavery meeting-house, and its bar an anti- 
slavery platform. And a very effective anti-slavery 
agent he proved, all the more so because of the pres- 
ence of Robert Morris, a black lawyer, whom he had 
associated with himself as counsel in the case. 

So, also, should be classed his speech, entitled "The 
Party of Freedom : Its Necessity and Practicability," 
delivered before the Free Soil State Convention of 
Massachusetts, held at Lowell, September 15, 1852. 
Sumner's purpose in it was to create a freedom- 
power in the North, to meet and master the slave- 
power of the South. He was a member of the Con- 
vention to revise and amend the Constitution of 



Massachusetts in 1853 ; and here again two of the 
four speeches made by him during the sessions of 
that body must be viewed as indirect attacks upon 
slavery, and its progeny, caste prejudice. One of these 
speeches was on the " Power of the State over the 
Militia," in which he argues " that in the organiza- 
tion of the volunteer military companies of the 
commonwealth there shall be no distinction of color 
or race." The other address was on " Bills of Rights, 
their History and Policy," which furnished a capital 
text for an anti-slavery sermon from the great lay 
preacher of the gospel of national righteousness. 

With these sturdy blows upon the many-headed 
Wrong with which he was battling must be classed 
his address, entitled " Finger-Point from Plymouth 
Rock," given by him on the occasion of the festival, 
held August 1, 1853, in commemoration of the embark- 
ation of the Pilgrims. Although called up to speak to 
the toast : " The Senate of the United States — the con- 
centrated light of the stars of the Union," he, never- 
theless, chose his own text, which was more in 
consonance with the thought which had then posses- 
sion of his heart and mind. While he made no overt 
allusion to the irrepressible conflict then raging be- 
tween freedom and slavery in the Republic, yet it 
was palpable to all that behind the struggles of the 
persecuted Puritans for religious liberty, he was 
exalting the struggles of the friends of freedom of 
his own day, and of the country founded by the devo- 
tion to duty, and the courage and constancy of 
those seventeenth-century reformers and foes of 

But, while he thus utilized all the ways and means 



which his increasing influence and opportunities were 
bringing to him, in well-delivered blows upon the 
head of the great iniquity, his seat in the Senate fur- 
nished him now his chief coign of vantage in the 
war. From this commanding position, he trained his 
heaviest guns, poured his most destructive fire upon 
the strongholds of the slave-power. After the long 
silence of those early months was broken by the broad- 
side of his first great speech against the slave des- 
potism, the deep thunder of his artillery was heard 
oftener, speaking from those heights. 

Meanwhile, the temper of the South was growing 
more unreasonable, violent, and arrogant. Worsted 
as she clearly was, in the contest for political suprem- 
acy, since the admission of California as a free State 
into the Union, she, nevertheless, clung passionately 
to her pretensions to sectional leadership and control. 
As she had no longer anything to lose, and much to 
recover, her action acquired a certain defiant and reck- 
less tone. If finally defeated in her purpose, there 
were, in the background, secession and a Southern 
Confederacy to retreat upon. 

On the other hand, the North was the theatre where 
was enacting a kind of double drama. There was, in 
the first place, the capital issue between it and its 
Southern rival, the struggle for political supremacy 
in the Union; there was besides, the conflict between 
its aspirations for sectional ascendency, and its anx- 
iety for the preservation of the Union. This by-play 
of its aspirations and its apprehensions rose at times 
to the gravity of the main action. It was this double 
movement of the passions, which destroyed Northern 
unity of purpose in the presence of danger and of its 



Southern antagonist, gave to its leaders a timid, halt- 
ing, irresolute disposition, pulled them back from any 
decisive step, the moment they espied the shadow of 
a crisis above the national horizon. While the slave- 
power gained constantly in singleness and energy of 
aim, the freedom-power, because of this duality of 
purpose, was subjected to ever recurrent irregularities 
and perturbations of conduct. The situation at the 
North was still further complicated by the disintegra- 
tion and chaos into which the two old parties were 
tumbling there, and by the fierce jealousies and rival- 
ries of party leaders within them. The conditions, 
in 1854, were all propitious to Southern aggression, 
favorable for the commission of some bold, unpre- 
cedented crime against liberty. 

Clay did not live to see the "black spirits and 
white, red spirits and grey," which issued from the 
cauldron of 1850, about which he sang his sad swan 
song. Calhoun had preceded him to the everlasting 
quiet of the grave. Webster, broken-hearted and 
dishonored, yet grand still in his ruin, followed their 
wearied way to the tomb. At last the three master 
lights, to which all men had looked in trial hours, 
were quenched in their lofty towers. The sea had 
risen, and the wind aud the witching voices of storm 
and night. They were abroad and mingling, those 
"black spirits and white," which the music of their 
triune and triumphant eloquence had so often en- 
raptured back to hell. As these imposing lumina- 
ries sank one after another into the void, darkness and 
tumult advanced apace through the land. 

It was at this juncture, that the most striking, and, 
perhaps, sinister figure in American party history 



loomed into greatness. Stephen A. Douglas was a 
curious and grim example of the survival of Viking 
instincts in the modern office-seeker. On the sea of 
politics, he was a veritable water-dog daring, 
unscrupulous, lawless, transcendentiy able, and trans- 
cendency heartless. The sight ol the Presidency 
affected him in much the same manner, as did the 
effete and rich civilizations and countries of Latin 
Europe affect his roving, robber prototypes twelve 
hundred years before. It stirred every drop of his 
sea -wolfs blood to get possession of it. His 
"squatter sovereignty " device was, indeed, the pirate 
ship that carried consternation to many an anxious 
community in the free States. 

In these circumstances and with such a Northern 
ally, the South undertook the repeal of the Missouri 
Compromise. The introduction of a measure by Mr. 
Dodge, of Iowa, on December 14. 1853, in the Senate 
for the organization of the upper division of the 
Louisiana Purchase into the Territory of Nebraska 
was made the occasion for achieving this result. Ail 
that country, the reader doubtless knows, the slave 
line of 1820 had consecrated forever to freedom. 
Calhoun, bold as he was in action, had not ven- 
tured to counsel the abrogation of that memorable 
covenant between the sections, because the agitation 
growing out Of such a proposition would disturb 
" the peace and harmony of the Union," as he put it 
The South had got the worst of the bargain, he 
reasoned, was overreached — but a bargain was £ 
bargain, and, therefore, the slave States should 
stand by their flighted faith unless released by the 




But what the great Nullifier would not counsel, his 
disciples and successors dared to do. The execution 
of the scheme was adroitly committed to the leader- 
ship of Douglas. Thus the movement seemed to 
come from the North, and thus did the South hope to 
conceal the sectionalism and rapacity of its design. 
Clearly did her leaders foresee that what they would 
do for slavery ought to be done deftly and quickly, 
before the full tide and rush of public sentiment at 
the North should overtake and overwhelm all such 
mischievous attempts. 

Texas, upon which Calhoun had built strong hopes 
of prolonged Southern ascendency in the Union, had 
disappointed Southern expectations in that regard. 
Far easier it was found to annex an empire than to 
people it. The emergency States, provided for by 
the Bill admitting Texas to Statehood, were not forth- 
coming to meet the exigencies of the slave-power. 
On the political chess-board there was but a single 
move left for it to make, and that was the prevention 
of any furthur relative increase in the number of 
free States. This final checkmate that power 
designed to accomplish, by throwing down the wall 
of partition between freedom and slavery erected 
by the Missouri Compromise. Here, indeed, were 
spaces larger than the thirteen original States to be 
occupied, to figure, sooner or later, with decisive 
weight and effect, in the struggle for political 
supremacy between the two halves of the Republic. 
The exclusive right of freedom to the occupancy of 
this immense region was to be set aside, and to slav- 
ery was to be granted an equality of interest and 
ownership in the same. Hence the powerful, prac- 



tical utility of the " squatter sovereignty " scheme of 
Douglas as an instrument of demolition. 

Then, too, the North might recall, so possibly the 
South reasoned, that plausible and pernicious notion 
of Webster, of the futility of reaffirming " an ordi- 
ance of nature," of reenacting " the will of God," and 
cooperate in the work of destruction. But the free 
States did not take at all to the monstrous proposi- 
tion. It threw them, on the contrary, into a fever of 
alarm and activity, in view of the disastrous conse- 
quences, which impended from the measure, to their 
interests and institutions. The self-love and section- 
alism of the North took fire. Everywhere through 
the free States there spread and blazed Northern 
protestation and opposition to the consummation of 
the dark conspiracy. 

The Repeal fought its way through Congress dur- 
ing four stormy months. Blows fell upon it and its 
authors, thick and furious, from Seward, Chase, 
Wade, Fessenden, Giddings, and Gerritt Smith. But 
Sumner was the Colossus of the hour, the heart of 
flame of his section. It was he, more than any other, 
who swung the ponderous Northern hammer, and 
smote plot and plotters with the stern strength of 
the Northern Giant. Such a speech as was his 
" Landmarks of Freedom," only crises breed. It was 
a ground-swell of the moral throes of the times, a 
lava-tide of argument, appeal, history, and eloquence. 
The august rights and wrath of the Northern people 
thundered and lightened along its rolling lines. 

" Accomplish thou thy manhood and thyself," is 
the cry of Humanity ringing ever in the soul of the 
reformer. He must needs bestir himself in obedience 



to the high mandate. This labor is the special mis- 
sion of great men. It was without doubt Sumner's. 
He stood for the manhood of the North, of the slave, 
of the Nation. For this he strenuously toiled. It' 
shines in every sentence of that memorable speech, 
and of the shorter one in defense of the New England 
clergy, made at midnight, on that black Thursday of 
May. which closed the bitter struggle and consum- 
mated the act of repeal. 

Here is a passage from the latter of these speeches: 
" From the depths of my soul, as loyal citizen and 
as Senator, I plead, remonstrate, protest, against the 
passage of this bill. I struggle against it as against 
death; but, as in death itself corruption puts on im- 
mortality, so from the sting of this hour I find assur- 
ance of that triumph by which freedom will be re- 
stored to her immortal birthright in the Republic. 

" Sir, the bill you are about to pass is at once the worst 
and the best on which Congress ever acted. Yes, sir, worst 
and best at the same time. 

" It is the worst bill, inasmuch as it is a present 
victory of slavery. . . . Among the crimes of 
history another is soon to be recorded, which no 
tears can blot out, and which, in better days, will be 
read with universal shame. Do not start. The Tea 
Tax and Stamp Act, which aroused the patriot rage 
of our fathers, were virtues by the side of your trans- 
gression; nor would it be easy to imagine, at this 
day, any measure which more openly defied every 
sentiment of justice, humanity, and Christianity. Am 
I not right, then, in calling it the worst bill on which 
Congress ever acted ? 

" There is another side, to which I gladly turn. Sir, 



it is the best bill on which Congress ever acted; for 
it annuls all past compromises with slavery, and makes 
any future compromises impossible. Thus, it puts free- 
dom and slavery face to face, and bids them grapple. 
Who can doubt the result? It opens wide the door 
of the future, when, at last there will really be a 
North, and the slave-power will be broken — when 
this wretched despotism will cease to dominate over 
our Government, no longer impressing itself upon 
everything at home and abroad — when the National 
Government will be divorced in every way from 
slavery, and, according to the true intention of our 
fathers, freedom will be established by Congress 
everywhere, at least beyond the local limits of the 

" Slavery will then be driven from usurped foot- 
hold here in the District of Columbia, in the National 
Territories, and elsewhere beneath the national flag: 
the Fugitive Slave Bill (Sumner would never call it 
Law), as vile as it is unconstitutional, will become a 
dead letter; and the domestic slave-trade, so far as it 
can be reached, but especially on the high seas, will 
be blasted by Congressional Prohibition. Every- 
where within the sphere of Congress, the great 
Northern Hammer will descend to smite the wrong; 
and the irresistible cry will break forth, ' No more 
slave States ! ' " N 

Significant enough, had the South ears to interpret 
it aright, was the prolonged applause in the galleries, 
which greeted a passage from the earlier speech, in 
which the orator likened the power of slavery in 
loosening and destroying the character of Northern 
men to the fabled influence of the black magnetic 



mountain in the Arabian story, whereby " the iron 
bolts which held together the strong timbers of a 
stately ship, floating securely on the distant wave, 
were drawn out, till the whole fell apart, and became 
a disjointed wreck." So were the principles of 
Northern representatives sucked out by the black 
magnetic mountain of the slave-power, " and from 
the miserable loosened fragments is found that 
human anomaly, a Northern man with Southern 
principles" "Sir," exclaimed the orator, "no such 
man can speak for the North," and thereupon 
the galleries burst into applause. Freedom had 
grown bolder. It had invaded the Senate Chamber, 
it had invaded also the galleries of that Chamber, 
with unwonted sounds and emotions. They were the 
burning brands, borne by the swift rising winds of 
public opinion at the North from the fierce fires, 
spreading and blazing from one end of that section 
to the other against the monumental perfidy and 
iniquity of the slave-power, in throwing down the 
sacred landmark of Liberty, erected by the Missouri 

The monition of Sumner, that the passage of the 
act of repeal would mark the close of an era of com- 
promises, was made also by William H. Seward in 
different words, but with not less certainty of 
sense. " The shifting sands of compromise," said he 
to the Senate, " are passing from under my feet, and 
they are now, without agency of my own, taking 
hold again on the rock of the Constitution. It shall 
be no fault of mine if they do not remain firm. This 
seems to me auspicious of better days and wiser 
legislation, Through all the darkness and gloom of 



the present hour bright stars are breaking, that 
inspire me with hope and excite me to perseverance." 
The greed of the South had overreached itself. For, 
in attempting to seize fresh advantages in its contest 
with the North for the political balance of the 
federal system, it had, by the passionate fears and 
the deep sense of injury thereby aroused toward it 
throughout that section, unwittingly put in peril its 
erstwhile strong, almost impregnable, position in the 
Union. The conduct of the South at this juncture 
of the irrepressible conflict, furnished another illus- 
tration of the truth of the saying " That whom the 
gods would destroy, they first make mad." Madder, 
and yet more mad, from this time, grew the slave 

Sumner's bold and uncompromising tone, pending 
the great debate, mightily incensed the South against 
him. This feeling of growing hate and hostility 
toward him on the part of the slave-power was 
fanned almost into open violence by an incident, 
arising out of the execution of the Fugitive Slave 
Law in Boston, and which occurred on the evening of 
May 26th, in the morning of which Sumner concluded 
his midnight speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. 
This was the attempt to rescue Anthony Burns by a 
number of citizens, who attacked the court-house 
where the fugitive slave was confined for safe keep- 
ing, and during which one of the slave-guard was 
killed by a pistol shot from the rescuing party. The 
news of this attempt to defeat the execution of the 
Slave Law, and of the killing of one of the guard in 
the melee, produced a profound sensation in Wash- 
ington, aroused the worst passions against Sumner, 


who was immediately charged with responsibility for 
the act, and denounced by administrative organs as a 
" murderer," notwithstanding the fact that at the 
hour of the attack upon the court-house the speech of 
the Massachusetts Senator, to which the South 
attributed the tragedy, had not then reached Boston. 
It was not until the next day that it arrived, by 
mail, in the city. But the South was in no rational 
mood for the reception of such swift fulfillment of 
Sumner's prediction, that the abrogation of the 
Compromise of 1820 would " scatter dragon's teeth, 
fructify in civil strife and feud." Even while he was 
speaking, the dragon's teeth were fructifying in the 
stony soil of the Bay State. 

And now a cry was raised against Sumner, a cry of 
insane hate, of gathering malignity, on the part of 
the slave-power. He was ruthlessly assailed by the 
Union and the Star, organs of the administration, in 
language plainly intended to make him odious at the 
capital, and to provoke against him violence of some 
sort, open or secret. " Boston in arms against the 
Constitution," inveighed the former journal, " and an 
Abolition fanatic, the distant leader, safe from the 
fire and the fagot, he invokes from his seat in the 
Senate of the United States, giving the command. Men 
shot down in the faithful discharge of duty to a law 
based upon a Constitutional guaranty, and the word 
which encourages the assassin given by a man who has 
sworn on the Holy Evangelist and the presence of 
his Maker to support the Constitution of the coun- 

"Let Sumner and his i?ifamous gang feel," raved the 
latter newspaper, " that he cannot outrage the fame 



of his country, counsel treason to its laws, incite the 
ignorant to bloodshed and murder, and still receive 
the support and countenance of the society of this 
city, which he has done so much to villify. 

"While the person of a Virginia citizen is only safe 
from rudeness and outrage behind the serried ranks 
of armed men, Charles Sumner is permitted to walk 
among the ' slave-catchers ' and ' fire-eaters ' of the 
South in peace and security." 

Thus raged the Southern heathen against him. 
The sinister appeals to the mob-spirit, by such 
powerful papers, had their effect. In Alexandria, 
just across the river, the incubatiou of mischief 
advanced apace. Violence was beginning to peck 
through the thin shell of law and order which con- 
fined it in that region. The air of the capital was 
full of ugly rumors of plans and plots to put the 
Abolition fanatic down. Now he was to be seized as 
hostage for the surrender of Burns, now to receive 
some personal affront and violence, now to have a 
ball put through his head. All of which menaces 
were duly communicated to their object, with a view, 
doubtless, of driving him from his post in Washing- 
ton. But those who sought to cow him into flight or 
silence, surely knew him not. Unawed and unterri- 
fied, he pursued the even tenor of his ways, walking 
to and from the Senate by Pennsylvania avenue the 
while, as was his wont, unarmed. One day at a 
restaurant, where he dined, he was threatened and 
insulted by a Southern fire-eater. 

Like begets like. And this violent temper of the 
South begot at the North a temper of similar vio- 
lence, as witness the following written to Mr. Sum- 



ner by gallant Joseph R. Hawley, of Connecticut, at 
present a United States Senator from that State: " If 
you really think there is any danger worth mention- 
ing, I wish you would telegraph me instantly. I will 
come to Washington by the next train, and quietly 
stay by. I have revolvers, and can use them — and 
while there should not be a word of unnecessary 
provocation, still, if anybody in Alexandria or Wash- 
ington really means to trouble you, or any other free 
Democrat there, you know several can play at that 
game." This brave offer of the future Union general, 
was called forth by the alarming rumors in regard to 
Mr. Sumner's safety, which were telegraphed May 
31st, from the seat of the Government to New York 
and other places. As Mr. Hawley was then feeling, so 
were thousands through the free States. If the blood 
of the South was fast mounting to the fighting point, 
so was that of the North. 

So strong was the fighting feeling grown at the 
North, that the Secretary of the Peace Society, Rev. 
George C. Beckwith, who saw Anthony Burns re- 
turned to slavery, could, at thought of the deed, 
write in this bellicose vein to Mr. Sumner: " I think I 
am still true to my peace principles, but my heart is 
stirred to its lowest depths of indignation; and I say 
frankly to men who applaud what our forefathers 
did, that we have now even stronger reasons for resist- 
ance to the slave-power than they had to the usur- 
pations of England." 

From this time, Sumner's position at Washington 
became one of constantly present peril. Hated, in- 
sulted, denounced, menaced by mob violence, his life 
was everyday in jeopardy. But he did not flinch or 



falter. Freedom was his master, humanity his guide. 
He climbed the hazardous steps that conducted him 
to duty, heedless of the dangers which arose in his 
path. His collisions with the slave-leaders and their 
Northern allies, became thenceforth more frequent 
and fierce. Everywhere he turned, he encountered 
increasing intolerance and malignity. All the powers 
of the man became braced, eager, alert. It was many 
against one, but that one was in himself a host, when 
roused as he was, not only by the grandeur of his 
cause, but also by a sense of personal indignity and 

Whoever else could, he would not submit to Sena- 
torial insult and bondage. His rising temper began 
to thrust like a rapier. Scorn he matched with scorn 
and clashed pride against pride. As a regiment bris- 
tles with bayonets, so bristled he with the cold and 
glittering steel of facts and figures, which mortally 
stabbed with the merciless truth of history the super- 
lative insolence and pretensions of the South. His 
sarcasm was terrific, possessed the ferocity of a pan- 
ther. He upon whom it sprang got his quivering 
flesh torn away. It is not in human nature to suffer 
such lacerations of the feelings, as Sumner now in- 
flicted upon the South, and readily forgive or forget 
their author. The slave-power did not forgive Sum- 
ner nor forget its scars. 

The rendition of the second fugitive slave from 
Boston was a bitter dose of humiliation and inhuman- 
ity for that city to swallow. With many of the mer- 
chant class, who had previously supported the infa- 
mous law asa part of the compromise measures of 1850, 
and for the sake of composing the differences between 



the two halves of the Union, this ocular demonstra- 
tion of its atrocious wickedness, produced a decided 
feeling of moral revulsion from the act. Such were 
now ready to ask for its repeal, to wash their hands 
of all complicity in the crime of returning fellow- 
men to bondage. They joined with the friends of 
freedom in signing a petition to Congress praying 
for the abrogation of the law. This petition, with 
the names of twenty-nine hundred petitioners ap- 
pended, was, on June 22 , 1854, presented to the Senate, 
and on the 26th debated by that body. 

Several Senators had engaged in the wordy warfare 
which ensued, among whom was a Mr. G. W. Jones, 
of Tennessee; before Mr. Sumner gained the floor, 
Mr. Jones had given the Senate a taste of the bully- 
ing assurance of his section in debate, and had put 
the question " Can anyone suppose that, if the Fugi- 
tive Slave Act be repealed, this Union can exist?" 
with the air of a champion who flings his gage of bat- 
tle down and dares any man to pick it up. Sumner, 
in beginning his speech, lifted the insolent challenge 
and threw it full in the face of the doughty Tennes- 
seean, thus: "Mr. President — I begin by answering 
the interrogatory propounded by the Senator from 
Tennessee (Mr. Jones): 'Can any one suppose, that, 
if the Fugitive Slave Act be repealed, this Union can 
exist ? ' To which I reply at once, that, if the Union 
be in any way dependent on an act — I cannot call it 
a law — so revolting in every respect as that to which 
he refers, then it ought not to exist. To much else 
that has fallen from that Senator I do not desire to 
reply. Matters already handled again and again, in 
the long-drawn-out debates of this session, he has 



discussed at length. Like the excited hero of Mace- 
donia, he has renewed past conflicts — ' And thrice tie 
routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain.' " 

With this half-playful, half-dangerous attention to 
Mr. Jones, he shoves him into space and attacks the 
subject of debate, restating his arguments against 
the constitutionality of the Slave Act, repeating his 
historical parallel between it and the Stamp Act, 
reiterating his stern denunciation of it, as in violation 
of the law of God, and of the Constitution of the 
United States. All of which was by no means calcu- 
lated to soften the feelings of the South toward him, 
or to turn from him its growing rage. On the con- 
trary, they hardened the hatred of that section toward 
him, and unloosed upon him a pack of furious South- 
ern representatives, abetted and outdone by a North- 
ern man with Southern principles, John Pettit, of 

Half a dozen irate Senators, when Mr. Sumner sat 
down, proceeded to assail him with an acrimony and 
brutality, that went beyond anything of the kind 
before perpetrated by the Southern side of the Senate 
in debate. A. P. Butler, of South Carolina, and 
James M. Mason, of Virginia, author of the Fugitive 
Slave Bill, were coarsely and savagely insolent and 
offensive ; but, for that matter, the four other assail- 
ants of the Massachusetts Senator, were coarsely and 
savagely insolent and offensive to a high degree. 
These others it is well to remember, and I shall there- 
fore name them. They were C. C. Clay, of Alabama, 
A. Dixon, of Kentucky, Stephen R. Mallory, of 
Florida, afterward Secretary of the Navy in the 
cabinet of Jefferson Davis, and that " human anom- 


aly," named above, a Northern man with Southern 

Those were the slave champions, who, one alter 
another, flung themselves upon the thick bosses of 
Sumner's shield, with a violence and virulence of 
vituperation more beseeming Ihe manners of a slave 
plantation, than the dignity and order of the upper 
branch of the National Legislature. In the midst of 
his excitement and tirade, Mr. Butler, turning to Mr. 
Sumner, demanded to know whether he would return 
a fugitive slave; and got the swift and crushing 
retort: " Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this 
thing?" Whereupon the Carolinian was thrown 
into a state of mind in which his fury and amaze- 
ment at such unheard-of audacity on the part of a 
Northern Senator, quite got the better of him. And, 
when, to his apoplectic interrogatory, " You stand in 
my presence as a coequal Senator, and tell me that 
it is a dog's office to execute the Constitution of the 
United States ? " Sumner quietly remarked, " I recog- 
nize no such obligation," meaning, of course, to return 
fugitive slaves to their masters; the Southerner's men- 
tal condition may be better imagined than de- 

Mr. Mason, who was to add to his evil eminence, 
as the author of the Fugitive Slave Bill, a sorry and 
sensational distinction in connection with the War 
of the Rebellion, was no whit behind Mr. Butler in 
insolence and violence of behavior and speech. 
" Why, sir," he cried, " am I speaking of a fanatic, 
one whose reason is dethroned ? Can such a one ex- 
pect to make impressions upon the American people 
from his vapid, vulgar declamation here,' accom- 


panied by a declaration that he would violate his 
oath now recently taken ?" 

Through two days the assailants of Mr. Sumner 
ran the debate, if debate it can be called, in which 
every note in alternation, and sometimes altogether, 
in the gamut of rage and hate, was sounded and 
resounded by them. On the second day of the at- 
tack upon him, Sumner obtained the floor and replied 
to his assailants in a speech, which, cutting deep into 
the pride and pretensions of the South, rankled long 
afterward in the bosoms of her representatives. 
Mercilessly he returned blow for blow upon the heads 
of his foes. 

The opening sentences of his repiy he fired at 
his assailants collectively, thus : " Mr. President — 
Since I had the honor of addressing the Senate two 
days ago, various Senators have spoken. Of these, 
several have alluded to me in terms clearly beyond 
the sanction of parliamentary debate. Of this I 
make no complaint, though, for the honor of the Se- 
nate, at least, it were well, had it been otherwise. If 
to them it seems fit, courteous, parliamentary, let 

" Unpack the heart with words, 
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab, 
A scullion : ' 

I will not interfere with the enjoyment they find in 
such exposure of themselves. They have given us a | 
taste of their quality." 

After this preliminary defiance of the Senatorial 
bunch of his assailants, he selected two of the com- 
pany for more particular and energetic attention. 
These were Messrs. Butler and Mason, whom he pro- 



ceeded immediately to acquaint with his own qual- 
ity, to teach how to be severe and parliamentary at 
the same time. Their behavior reminded him of 
Jefferson's picture of the influence of slavery upon 
the master-class. The parent storms, and the child 
looks on and imitates what he sees in the circle of 
smaller slaves, etc. The great Virginian adjudged 
that master a prodigy who was able to " retain his 
manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances." 
But Sumner was certain that " Nobody, who wit- 
nessed the Senator from South Carolina or the Sen- 
ator from Virginia in this debate, will place either of 
them among the 'prodigies' described by Jefferson." 

In this wise he met the accusation that he had 
disowned the obligations of the Constitution: "In 
swearing to support the Constitution at your desk, 
Mr. President, I did not swear to support it as you 
understand it — oh, no, sir! — or as the Senator from 
Virginia understands it — by no means ! — or as the 
Senator from South Carolina understands it, with a 
kennel of bloodhounds, or at least, a 'dog' in it, 
* pawing to get free his hinder parts, in pursuit of a 
slave.' No such thing. Sir, I swore to support the 
Constitution as I understand it — nor more, nor 

Mr. Butler had, in the course of his assault on Mr. 
Sumner, and with the customary swagger and pre- 
tensions of his class, boasted that the independence 
of America was won by the arms and treasure of 
slave-holding communities. To this grandiose as- 
sertion, Sumner replied, with a thoroughness of 
knowledge, a skill of statement, a weight and scorn 
of diction, which pulverized the false and foolish 


vaunt, and humbled the pride of its author, and the 
insolent assumptions of his State and section, in the 
dust and vanity of it. 

While Sumner was pounding upon this overween- 
ing laudation of slave-holding communities, and was 
in the way of reducing it to powder with the great 
Northern hammer, its author without rising from 
his seat, attempted to break the force of the blows 
which he was receiving, by a remark in interruption 
of the Northern giant. But Sumner was in no mood 
to let pass unnoticed such a piece of bad parliamen- 
tary manners, and, accordingly, administered to the 
offender a fit rebuke on the spot. " And now, sir, 
the venerable Senator not rising from his seat and 
standing openly before the Senate, undertakes to deny 
that he has dealt in such comparisons." It is need- 
less to say that, after this incident, Mr. Butler ob- 
served, the next time he wished to interrupt his Mas- 
sachusetts antagonist, the etiquette of debate, rising 
from his seat and first addressing Mr. Sumner with 
the customary " Will the Senator allow me ?" — which 
did not fail to elicit the speaker's dignified and in- 
variable response, in that regard; "Certainly: I yield 
the floor to the Senator." 

But, perhaps, the most effective and characteristic 
stroke of his reply was the spirited manner in which 
he met the peremptory assertion of Mr. Mason, that 
the Fugitive Slave Act does not deny the Habeas 
Corpus. But here is the passage alluded to, which is 
given entire: 

*' And now, for the present, I part with the vener- 
able Senator from South Carolina. Pursuing his in- 
consistencies, and exposing them to judgment, I had 


2 4 I 

almost forgotten his associate leader in the wanton 
personal assault upon me in this long debate — I mean 
the veteran Senator from Virginia [Mr. Mason], who 
is now directly in my eye. With imperious look, 
and in the style of Sir Forcible Feeble, that Senator 
undertakes to call in question my statement, that the 
Fugitive Slave Act denies the writ of Habeas Cor- 
pus; and in doing this, he assumes a superiority for 
himself, which, permit me to tell him now in this 
presence, nothing in him can warrant. Sir, I claim 
little for myself ; but I shrink in no respect from any 
comparison with the Senator, veteran though he be. 
Sitting near him, as has been my fortune, since I had 
the honor of a seat in this chamber, I came to know 
something of his conversation, something of his man- 
ners, something of his attainments, something of his 
abilities, something of his character — ay, sir, and 
something of his associations; and while I would not 
disparage him in these respects, I feel that I do not 
exalt myself unduly, that I do not claim too much 
for the position which I hold or the name which I 
have established, when I openly declare, that, as 
Senator of Massachusetts, and as a man, I place my- 
self at every point in unhesitating comparison with 
that honorable assailant. And to his peremptory 
assertion, that the Fugitive Slave Act does not deny 
the Habeas Corpus, I oppose my assertion, peremp- 
tory as his own, that it does — and there I leave that 

When Mr. Sumner had made an end of his reply, 
Mr. Chase, who sat next to him, greeted him with 
the words, " You have struck slavery the strongest 
blow it ever received ; you have made it reel to the 



centre." And all things considered, taking the 
matter and the manner of that speech, this estimate 
of it by so competent a judge as was Mr. Chase, is, 
perhaps, not in excess of its deserts. It was, in- 
deed, a staggering blow, which it dealt the slave- 
power and its champions in the Senate. There were 
suggestions made for his expulsion from that body. 
And for a while there is no doubt that some such 
scheme was seriously entertained by his enemies of 
avenging themselves and the outraged self-love of 
their section, upon him, the ruthless Northern giant, 
with his terrible trip-hammer attachment. 

The proposed act of expulsion was to be based 
npon Sumner's alleged refusal to recognize the obliga- 
tions of the Constitution. He had not refused to re- 
cognize the obligations of the Constitution, only the 
obligations of the Constitution to return fugitive slaves. 
This he distinctly and repeatedly refused to recognize. 
And this refusal his enemies attempted to distort 
into a denial of the obligation of his oath to support 
the Constitution. The project of expulsion was, 
however, finally abandoned, and Mr. Sumner was sent 
to Coventry instead. 

Mr. Sumner's splendid reply to his assailants, 
while it augmented the intense and intolerable hate 
of the South toward him, added at the same time 
vastly to his popularity and influence in Massachu- 
setts and through the free States generally. He was 
probably, at the moment, the most conspicuous 
representative of freedom, in public life, at the 
North. He was certainly the transcendent figure in 
public hie in Massachusetts. 

Johr* P. Hale, on his way from Washington to 



New York, heard but one expression, in steamboat 
and railroad car, and that from people of every 
political complexion, in regard to the speech. It 
was one of " unmingled gratification," on the part of 
the gentler sex especially, he added. William I. 
Bowditch wrote from Boston : "One gentleman whom 
I saw this forenoon said that he involuntarily gave 
three cheers when he had finished reading your speech ; 
and an ' old Hunker ' said to me smilingly, ' I really 
don't know but that I shall myself come out a 
Sumner man.' " Benjamin F. Butler, who was at- 
tending court at Concord, Mass., and seeing people 
of all parties, heard but one sentiment expressed in 
regard to the great topic of conversation, Sumner's 
reply to his assailants, and that was of approval. 
Daniel Shattuck wrote : " Being one of the old-time 
Whigs, I was not pleased with your election to the 
high seat which you hold ; for that opinion you will 
forgive me, I am sure, when I say that I go with you 
now heart and soul, and approve all you have said 
in defense of your native State, whose sons I 
know approve your course and wish you God- 

All of which indicated the good progress that the 
freedom-power was making in the North, for the 
development of which Sumner, in and out of Con- 
gress, was strenuously striving. Certainly, there was 
a revolution in public sentiment on the subject of 
slavery, progressing on a grand scale, through the 
free States, aided signally, now by one thing, now by 
another. Now it was hurried forward by the execu- 
tion of the Fugitive Slave Act, now by the abrogation 
of the Missouri Compromise, and now by such scenes 



in Congress and such an exhibition of backbone and 
power in a Northern representative as have just been 
depicted. The title " Defender of Humanity," rejected 
by Webster, had, through brave words and brave 
deeds, become Sumner's. 



In the Senate, and in the House also, every move- 
ment of the friends of freedom was met and op- 
posed by the intolerant spirit and obstructive tactics 
of the friends of slavery. It was exceedingly diffi- 
cult to obtain the floor, in either branch of Congress, 
for the introduction of matter in the interest of lib- 
erty, while in all measures pertaining to slavery, it 
was quite the reverse. Slavery had the right of way 
every day and every hour during the continuance of 
the sessions of the two branches of the National 
Legislature, and freedom had to stand aside or get 
ground under the Juggernaut wheels of its arrogant 

Here is a Senatorial instance of just this sort of 
thing, included by Mr. Sumner in the edition of 
his works, and reproduced by him from the Con- 
gressional Globe. The day is July 31, 1854, and the 
occasion the report of the Committee on Pensions, 
through Mr. Seward, of a bill for the relief of the 
aged widow of a soldier of the war of 181 2, who had 
died of wounds received therein. The moment the 
measure was introduced, a Southern Senator moved 
an amendment, granting a pension to the widow of 
the man who was killed in the attempted rescue of 
Anthony Burns from the Court-House in Boston on the 



evening of the 26th of the previous May, as the reader 
will doubtless recall. Being clearly in the interest of 
slavery, and notwithstanding objections thereto, the 
amendment was adopted. Thereupon Mr. Sumner 
moved an amendment, repealing the Fugitive Slave 
Act, which was, of course, promptly ruled out of 
order as not "germane to the bill under consideration." 
The bill for the relief of the widow of a hero of the 
war of 181 2, together with the amendment for the re- 
lief of the widow of a volunteer hireling in the execu- 
tion of the Fugitive Slave Law, were put upon their 
passage. At this stage of the business, Mr. Sumner 
springs to his feet, when ensues the following strug- 
gle between him, aided by friends, and the slave- 
power : 

Mr. Sumner — In pursuance of notice, I now ask 
leave to introduce a bill. 

Mr. Stuart (of Michigan) — I object to it, and move 
to take up the River and Harbor Bill. 

The Presiding Officer (Mr. Cooper, of Pennsyl- 
vania) — The other bill is not disposed of, the third 
reading of a bill for the relief of Betsy Nash. 

The bill was then read a third time and passed. 

Mr. Sumner — In pursuance of notice, I ask leave 
to introduce a bill, which I now send to the table. 

Mr. Stuart — Is that in order? 

Mr. Sumner — Why not? 

Mr. Benjamin (of Louisiana) — There is a pending 
motion of the Senator from Michigan to take up the 
River and Harbor Bill. 

The Presiding Officer — That motion was not en- 
tertained, because the Senator from Massachusetts 
had and has the floor. 



Mr. Stuart — I make the motion now. 

The Presiding Officer — The Chair thinks it is in 
order to give the notice. 

Mr. Sumner. — Notice has been given, and I now, 
in pursuance of notice, introduce the bill. The ques- 
tion is on its first reading. 

The Presiding Officer — The first reading of a 

Mr. Norris (of New Hampshire) — I rise to a ques- 
tion of order. 

Mr. Sumner — I believe that I have the floor. 

Mr. Norris — But I rise to a question of order. I 
submit that that is not the question. The Senator 
from Massachusetts has given notice that he would 
ask leave to introduce a bill. He now asks that 
leave. If there is objection, the question must be de- 
cided by the Senate whether he shall have leave or 
not. Objection is made and the bill cannot be read. 

Mr. Sumner — Very well ; the first question, then, 
is on granting leave, and the title of the bill will be 

The Presiding Officer (to the Secretary) — Read 
the title. The Secretary read it as follows : " A Bill 
to repeal the Act of Congress approved September 
18, 1850, for the surrender of fugitives from service or 

The Presiding Officer — The question is on grant- 
ing leave to introduce the bill. 

Mr. Sumner — And I have the floor. 

The Presiding Officer — The Senator from Mas- 
sachusetts is entitled to the floor. 

Mr. Sumner — I shall not occupy much time, nor 
shall I debate the bill. Some time ago, Mr. President, 



after the presentation of the Memorial from Boston, 
signed by twenty-nine hundred citizens without dis- 
tinction of party, I gave notice that I should, at a 
day thereafter, ask leave to introduce a bill for the 
repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act. Desirous, however, 
not to proceed prematurely, I awaited the action 
of the Committee on the Judiciary, to which the 
Memorial, and others of a similar character, were 
referred. At length an adverse report was made, 
and accepted by the Senate. From the time of that 
report down to this moment, I have sought an oppor- 
tunity to introduce this bill. Now, at last, I have it. 
At a former session, sir, in introducing a similar 
proposition, I considered it at length, in an argument 
which I fearlessly assert — 

Mr. Gwin (of California) — I rise to a point of 
order. Has the Senator a right to debate the question, 
or say anything on it until leave be granted ? 

The Presiding Officer — My impression is that the 
question is not debatable. 1 

Mr. Sumner — I propose simply to explain my bill, 
to make a statement, not an argument. 

Mr. Gwin — I make the point of order. 

The Presiding Officer — I am not aware precisely 
what the rule of order on the subject is; but I have 
the impression that the Senator cannot debate — 

Mr. Sumner — The distinction is this — 

Mr. Gwin — I insist upon the application of the 
decision of the Chair. 

Mr. Mason (of Virginia) — Mr. President, there is 

1 Mr. Sumner has pointed out that nothing is clearer, under the 
rules of the Senate, than that he was in order when, introducing 
his bill, he proceeded to state the causes for doing so. 



one rale of order that is undoubted : that, when the 
Chair is stating a question of order, he must not be 
interrupted by a Senator. There is no question about 
that rule of order. 

The Presiding Officer — The Senator did not in- 
terrupt the Chair. 

Mr. Sumner — The Chair does me justice in response 
to the injustice of the Senator from Virginia. 

The Presiding Officer — Order! order ! 

Mr. Mason — The Senator is doing that very thing 
at this moment. I am endeavoring to sustain the 
authority of the Chair, which certainly has been 

The Presiding Officer — It is the opinion of the 
Chair that the debate is out of order. I am not pre- 
cisely informed of what the rule is, but such is my 
clear impression. 

Mr. Walker (of Wisconsin) — If the Senator from 
Massachusetts will allow me, I will say a word here. 

Mr. Sumner — Certainly. 

Mr. Walker — It is usual, upon notice being given 
of intention, to ask leave to introduce a bill. The 
bill is sent to the Chair, and it is taken as a matter of 
course that the Senator asking it has leave. But in 
this instance, differing from the usual practice, objec- 
tion has been made to leave being granted. The 
necessity is imposed, then, of taking the sense of the 
Senate on granting leave to the Senator to introduce 
his bill. That, then, becomes the question. The 
question for the Chair to put is, Shall the Senator 
have leave ? 

The Presiding Officer — That was the question 



Mr. Walker — Now, sir, it does seem to me that it 
is proper, and that it is in order, for the Senator to 
address himself to the Senate with a view of showing 
the propriety of granting the leave asked for. He 
has a right to show that there would be propriety on 
the part of the Senate in granting the leave. I think, 
therefore, as this may become a precedent in future 
in regard to other matters, that it should be settled 
with some degree of deliberation. 

Mr. Gwin — Let the Chair decide the question. 

The Presiding Officer — The Chair has decided 
that debate was not in order, in his opinion. 

Mr. Sumner — From that decision of the Chair I 
most respectfully take an appeal. 

The Presiding Officer — From that ruling of the 
Chair an appeal is taken by the Senator from Mas- 
sachusetts. The question is on the appeal. 

Mr. Benjamin — In order to put a stop to the 
whole debate, I move to lay the appeal on the table. 
That is a motion which is not debatable. 

Mr. Sumner — Is that motion in order? 

The Presiding Officer — Certainly, it is in order. 1 

Mr. Weller (of California) — I desire to make one 
remark in regard to the rule. 

The Presiding Officer — It is not in order now. 
The question must be taken without debate. 

Mr. Sumner — Allow me to state the case as it 

1 Mr. Sumner has pointed out in a footnote to this ruling of the 
Chair that the motion of Mr. Benjamin was clearly out of order: 
first, because in the Senate an appeal from the decision of the 
Chair on a question of order cannot be laid on the table ; and, sec- 
ondly, because he, himself, was already on the floor, so that Mr. 
Benjamin could not make a motion. 


seems to me. I was on the floor, and yielded it to 
the Senator from Wisconsin strictly for the purpose 
of an explanation. When finished I was in possesion 
of the floor ; and then it was that the Senator from 
Louisiana on my right — 

The Presiding Officer — Will the Senator from 
Massachussets give leave to the Chair to explain ? 

Mr. Sumner — Certainly. 

The Presiding Officer — A point of order was 
made by the Senator from California [Mr. Gwin], 
that debate was not in order upon the question of 
granting leave ; and the Chair so decided. The 
Senator from Massachusetts then lost the floor, as I 
apprehend, and he certainly did by following it up 
by an appeal. After that he could go no further. 
He lost the floor then again for a second time, and 
then it was that the Senator from Louisiana inter- 
vened with another motion, which is certainly in 
order, to lay the appeal on the table. That is not 
debatable. This, it seems to me, is the state of the case. 

Mr. Chase (of Ohio) — Will the Chair allow me to 
make a single statement ? 

The Presiding Officer — Certainly. 

Mr. Chase — The Senator from Massachusetts rose 
and held the floor during the suggestion made to the 
Chair by the Senator from Wisconsin. The Chair 
then, after the Senator from Wisconsin had finished 
his suggestion, declared his opinion to be, notwith- 
standing the suggestion, that debate was not in 
order. The Senator from Massachusetts then took 
an appeal, and retained the floor for the purpose of 
addressing the Senate on that appeal. While he 
occupied the floor, the Senator from Louisiana rose 



and moved to lay the appeal upon the table. That 
will be borne out by the gentlemen present. 

The Presiding Officer — That is so ; but the 
Chair does not understand that debate was in order 
on the appeal. The appeal was to be decided with- 
out debate, and therefore the Senator from Mas- 
sachusetts necessarily lost the floor after he took his 

Mr. Bell (of Tennessee) — I would inquire whether 
there is not a bill already pending for the repeal of 
the Fugitive Slave Law ? 

The Presiding Officer — I have not inquired of 
the Secretary, but it is my belief there is a similar 
bill pending ; but it was not on that ground the 
Chair made this ruling. 

Mr. Bell — I would inquire whether there is not 
such a bill pending? Did not the honorable Senator 
from Ohio some time ago bring in such a bill ? 

Mr. Weller — I think he did. 

Mr. Chase — No, sir. 

Mr. Bell — Then I am mistaken. 

Mr. Chase — My bill is not on that subject. 

The Presiding Officer — The question is on the 
motion of the Senator from Louisiana to lay on the 
table the appeal taken by the Senator from Mas- 
sachusetts from the decision of the Chair. 

Mr. Chase — I ask if the motion of the Senator 
from Louisiana is in order, when the Senator from 
Massachusetts retained the floor for the purpose of 
debating the appeal ? 

Mr. Benjamin — The Senator is not in order in re- 
newing that question, which has already been decided 
by the Chair. 


The Presiding Officer — If the Chair acted under 
an erroneous impression in supposing that debate on 
the appeal was not in order, when it actually is, it 
was the fault of the Chair, and it would not have 
been in order for the Senator from Louisiana to 
make the motion which he did make, while the 
Senator from Massachusetts was on the floor. But 
the Chair recognized the Senator from Louisiana, 
supposing that the Senator from Massachusetts had 
yielded the floor. The Senator had taken an appeal ; 
he followed it up by no address to the Chair, indicat- 
ing an intention that he intended to debate the 
appeal, or the Chair certainly should so far have 
recognized him. But the Chair would reconsider his 
ruling in that respect, with the consent of the 
Senator from Louisiana. 

Mr. Bright (of Indiana) — The chair will permit 
me to suggest that I think the motion proper to be 
entertained now is the one proposed by the Senator 
from New Hampshire [Mr. Norris]. The Senator 
from Massachusetts presented his bill; the Senator 
from New Hampshire raised the question as to 
whether the Senate would grant leave to introduce 
it; and I think the proper question to be put now is, 
Will the Senate grant leave to introduce a bill repeal- 
ing the Fugitive Slave Law ? The effect of the mo- 
tion of the Senator from Louisiana would be to lay 
the subject on the table, from which it might be 
taken at any time for action. For one, I desire to 
give a decisive vote now, declaring that I am unwill- 
ing to legislate upon the subject, that I am satisfied 
with the law as it reads, and that I will not aid the 
Senator from Massachusetts, or any Senator, in — 



The Presiding Officer — The Senator from In- 
diana is certainly not in order. 

Mr. Bright — I certainly am in order in calling the 
attention of the Chair to the fact that the Senator 
from New Hampshire — 

The Presiding Officer — The Senator from In- 
diana is not in order. 

Mr. Bright — Then I will sit down and ask the 
Chair to state wherein I am out of order. 

The Presiding Officer — In discussing a ques 
tion which is not before the Senate. 

Mr. Bright. — I claim that the motion is before the 
Senate. The Senator from New Hampshire raised 
the question immediately, thai — 

The Presiding Officer — The Chair decides other 

Mr. Bright — Then I appeal from the decision of 
the Chair, and I state this as my point of order: that 
before the bill was presented in legal parlance, th 
Senator from New Hampshire raised the question a 
to whether the Senate would grant leave, and tha 
is the point now before the Senate. 

The Presiding Officer — The Chair will state the 
question which he supposes to be pending. The 
Senator from California made a point of order, that 
debate on the bill proposed to be introduced by the 
Senator from Massachusetts was not in order. The 
Chair so ruled. From that ruling the Senator from 
Massachusetts took an appeal. The Chair supposed 
that the Senator from Massachusetts had yielded the 
floor, and he gave the floor to the Senator from Lou- 
isiana, who moved to lay that appeal on the table. 
That is the question which is now pending. The 



Chair before suggested, that if the Senator from Mas- 
sachusetts had not yielded the floor, he had made a 
mistake in giving the floor to the Senator from Lou- 
isiana, but he did not suppose that the Senator from 
Massachusetts, after taking the appeal, without some 
indication of his intention to debate it, continued 
to hold the floor, and he therefore recognized the 
Senator from Louisiana. The Chair is sorry if he 
did the Senator from Massachusetts injustice in that 
respect; but he did not hear him, and recognized the 
Senator from Louisiana. 

Mr. Bright — I would respectfully ask the Chair 
what has become of the motion submitted by the 
Senator from New Hampshire? 

The Presiding Officer — The Chair did not un- 
derstand him to submit a motion, but the Senator 
from California took his point of order. 

Mr. Bright — I wish to inquire of the Senator from 
New Hampshire whether he has withdrawn his mo- 
tion ? 

The Presiding Officer — It was not entertained. 
It is not in his power to say whether it was with- 
drawn or not, for it was not entertained. 

Mr. Norris — I think I can inform my friend from 
Indiana how the matter stands. The Senator from 
Massachusetts proposed to introduce a bill on notice 
given. I raised the question, that it could not be 
introduced without leave of the Senate if there was 

Mr. Sumner — Do I understand the Senator to say 
without notice given ? I asked leave to introduce 
the bill in pursuance of notice. 

Mr. Norris — The Senator from Massachusetts, I 



have already stated, offered his bill agreeably to 
previous notice. 

Mr. Sumner — Precisely. 

Mr. Norris — The question was then raised, whether 
it would be received if there was objection ? The 
question arose, whether leave should be" granted to 
the Senator from Massachusetts to introduce the 

Mr. Sumner — That is the first question. 

Mr. Norris — The Senator from Massachusetts, 
upon the question of granting leave, undertook to 
address the Senate. He was then called to order by 
my friend from California for discussing that ques- 
tion. The Chair sustained the objection of the Sen- 
ator from California. From the decision of the Chair 
the Senator from Massachusetts took an appeal; and 
that is where the question now stands, unless the 
Senator from Louisiana had a right to make the 
motion which he did make, which was to lay the 
appeal on the table. 

The Presiding Officer — The question is, unless 
the Senator from Louisiana will disembarrass the 
Chair by withdrawing it, on the motion of the Sen- 
ator from Louisiana to lay the appeal on the table. 

Mr. Sumner — On that motion I ask for the yeas 
and nays. 

The yeas and nays were ordered. 

Mr. Foot (of Vermont) — On what motion have the 
yeas and nays been ordered. 

The Presiding Officer — On the motion of the 
Senator from Louisiana. 

Mr. Walker — I wish to know, before voting, what 
will be the effect of a vote given in the affirmative on 



this motion ? Will it carry the bill and the whole 
subject on the table ? 

Mr. Foot — An affirmative carries the whole meas- 
ure on the table. 

The Presiding Officer — Yes, sir; if the motion 
to lay on the table be agreed to, it carries the bill 
with it. 

Several Senators — No, no! 

Mr. Benjamin — The question is, whether, on the 
motion for leave to introduce the bill, there shall be 
debate ? The Chair has decided that there shall be 
no debate. Those who vote "yea" on my motion 
to lay the appeal of the Senator from Massachusetts 
on the table will vote that there is to be no debate 
upon the permission to offer the bill, and then the 
question will be taken upon granting leave. 

Mr. Walker — The Chair decides differently. The 
Chair decides, if I understand, that it will carry the 
bill on the table. Then how can we ever reach the 
question of leave, when objection is made ? 

Mr. Weller — I object to this discussion. The 
Chair will decide that question when it arrives. It 
does not arise now. I insist that the Secretary shall 
go on and call the roll. 

Mr. Walker — Suppose some of us object to it ? 

Mr. Weller — Then I object to your discussing it. 

The Presiding Officer — The Chair, on reflection, 
thinks that the motion, if agreed to, would not have 
a further effect than to bring up the question grant- 
ing leave. 

Mr. Bright — I desire to understand the Chair. I 
do not wish to insist on anything that is not right, or 
that is not within the rules. That I insist upon hav- 



ing. The honorable Senator from Louisiana is right 
in his conclusions as to his motion, provided he had a 
right to make the motion; but I doubt whether he 
had a right to make that motion while the motion of 
the honorable Senator from New Hampshire was 
pending. I do not wish, however, to consume the 
time of the Senate. If the effect of the decision of 
the Chair is to bring us back to the question as to 
whether we shall receive the bill or not, I will yield 
the floor. 

The Presiding Officer — That is it. 
Mr. Bright — Very well. 

Mr. Sumner — Before the vote is taken, allow me to 
read a few words from the Rules and Orders, and 
from "Jefferson's Manual." 

" One day's notice, at least, shall be given of an in- 
tended motion for leave to bring in a bill." 

That is the 25th rule of the Senate ; and then to 
that rule, in the publication which I now hold in my 
hand, is appended, from "Jefferson's Manual," the fol- 
lowing decisive language : 

" When a member desires to bring in a bill on any 
subject, he states to the House, in general terms the causes 
for doing it, and concludes by moving for leave to 
bring in a bill entitled, etc. Leave being given, on 
the question, a committee is appointed to prepare 
and bring in the bill/' 

Now I would simply observe, that my purpose was 
merely to make a statement — 

Mr. Benjamin — I call to order. 

The Presiding Officer — The Senator had pre- 
sented his bill, and was debating it afterwards. The 
question is on the motion of the Senator from Louisi- 



ana to lay the appeal on the table, and on that the 
yeas and nays have been ordered. 

The appeal was ordered to lie on the table by a 
vote of thirty-five to ten. The Senate then proceeded 
to record its refusal to grant leave to introduce the 
bill, by a like vote of ten to thirty-five. Thus ended 
this hour's struggle for the floor on the part of Mr. 
Sumner with the slave-power, which was seconded at 
every point, the reader doubtless observed, by North- 
ern representatives, eager to do its service. 



Quite one thing it was to repeal the Missouri Com- 
promise, and quite another thing to trammel up the 
consequences of that Act, as the slave-power speedily- 
had occasion to experience. As events fell out after- 
ward, the victory of the South proved worse than 
defeat, the defeat of the North better than victory. 
The iniquitous deed and the plot leading up to its 
consummation, united the slave States — obliterated 
their party lines. Southern Whigs vied with South- 
ern Democrats in devotion to their section during the 
long struggle which ended in the Act of Abrogation. 
Northern Whigs, true to the interests of their section, 
learnt, in the desertion of their Southern brethren in 
that crisis, the grand lesson that the slave-power, in 
its contest for supremacy in the Union, knew no party, 
forgot all differences to attain its end. 

This discovery broke the Whig party, and threw 
upon the national horizon the gigantic body of a 
Northern political organization, devoted not to the 
emancipation of slavery but to the emancipation of the 
nation from the domination of the slave-power. What 
land slavery had actually got, that it might keep, but 
not another inch of the soil of the Republic should it 
occupy. The hour which recorded the passage of 



the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, recorded also this deter- 
mined purpose on the part of the free States. 

The two contrary ideas of freedom and slavery had 
thus entered a fresh, and, perhaps, final stage of coun- 
ter expansion and conflict. The situation, in these 
circumstances, was resolved into a gladiatorial trial of 
strength and dexterity in the use of means, on the 
part of the wrestlers. Sheer strength was plainly 
with the North, while political dexterity was as plainly 
with the South. Could the Northern giant pin its 
agile Southern adversary to the ground and hold him 
there, was the momentous question which freedom had 
now to answer. 

For the first time the Northern giant fully compre- 
hended that the struggle was a life and death one, 
and that to prevail he needed the disciplined strength 
of a powerful party in his right hand. The Whig 
party went to pieces in the storm of passion which 
swept through the free States in the wake of the Act 
of Repeal. There was a moment in the swift current 
of events when men attempted to reunite its North- 
ern and Southern wings in a new organization. But 
the explosive forces which had wrecked the Whig 
party made quick work of the American. Vain was 
every effort to find common ground for the feet of its 
Northern and Southern sides. In that storm and stress 
period there was none. 

Meanwhile the excitement, produced by the over- 
throw of the slave line of 1820, advanced apace 
through the free States. The popular uprising was 
assuming everywhere the volume and force of a 
political inundation. Spontaneously, irresistibly, 
at widely separated points, organized move- 



ments started up in opposition to the extension of 
slavery to the free soil of the nation. Anti-slavery 
Whigs, anti-slavery Democrats, anti-slavery Amer- 
icans, old-time Abolitionists, and the membership of 
the then existing Free Soil party, were dissolving 
under the fervent heat of the crisis and pouring 
together into the new Northern party. The rapid 
rise of the Republican party is proof positive, that 
the North had learnt of the South, at last, to erect 
the slavery question into a paramount national 

The movement for the formation of a new party 
extended, during the year of 1854, to Wisconsin, 
Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, New York, and to several 
of the New England States, like Vermont and Mas- 
sachusetts. As early as July, the Free Soil party in 
the latter State assumed the name of " Republican." 
At its annual State Convention appointed to meet 
in Worcester, September 7th, the managers deter- 
mined to play their best card, speaking politically. 
And this card, it was generally agreed, was the pres- 
ence of Mr. Sumner, and an address from him 
before the Convention. Notwithstanding the wide- 
spread confusion, and even chaos, into which the two 
old parties were tumbling in Massachusetts on the 
subject of slavery extension, there was just enough 
survival of the traditions of each to prevent a fusion 
of the anti-slavery elements of both in a common 
movement against the common enemy. The increas- 
ing popularity of Sumner among all classes of the 
State, without regard to party, was an important 
influence, which, at the moment, was strongly mak- 
ing for union of the anti-slavery Whigs and demo- 



crats of the commonwealth, with the Free Soil 
organization, in the formation of the new party. 

Sumner, by his splendid fight in Washington for 
freedom, had, in fine, become in Massachusetts a 
moral magnet, a political point of union in the midst 
of the flooding and confusion of the converging 
currents of a swiftly changing public opinion. John 
A. Andrew, Chairman of the Republican Provisional 
Committee of the State, wrote him in regard to the 
then approaching convention : " But more depends 
upon the aid you can give than upon that of any one 
man. Your recent battles of the Senate have shut 
the mouth of personal opposition, wrung applause 
from the unwilling, excited a State's pride and 
gratitude, such as rarely it is the fortune of any one 
to win. Your presence at the nominating convention 
. . . is a point which must be agreed to at once." 
And later . . . "we can do nothing which will 
so completely secure a triumphant gathering as to 
announce your name." 

To this Macedonian appeal of the future war 
governor, Sumner, beset as he was by cares and 
labors at Washington, could not turn a deaf ear, but 
hearkened to the voice of his friend, and went to the 
aid of the new party in an address of characteristic 
power and eloquence. The burden of it, as of all his 
public utterances now, was Cathago est delenda. The 
slave-power must and shall be destroyed, broken 
utterly on the broad field of national politics, broken 
utterly within the narrower limits of the several free 
States in general, and of Massachusetts in particular. 
Opposition to the Fugitive Slave Bill, opposition to 
the admission of new slave States, whether from 



Texas or Cuba, Utah or New Mexico, was the duty 
of the hour. Duty, right, justice, liberty, humanity, 
were the commanding entities with which he dealt as 
a public man. And all of these, separately or to- 
gether, were thundering through him for the total 
annihilation of the slave-power. They thundered 
through him on this occasion. 

His plan for the performance of the duties, which 
the crisis imposed upon the friends of freedom, was 
simple but effective. "The most obvious way," he 
expressed it, " is by choosing men to represent us in 
the National Government who will not shrink 
from the conflict with slavery, and also other 
men at home who will not shrink from the same con- 
flict with slave-hunters." In this choice of men he 
apprehended correctly, lay the necessity for the new 
party. Loyal men must be reinforced by legal safe- 
guards for the protection of the liberty of all who 
tread the soil of Massachusetts, and these must be 
vigorously enforced. 

" Massachusetts would do well," he urged, " to imi- 
tate Vermont, which by special law places the fugi- 
tive slave under the safeguard of Trial by Jury and 
the writ of Habeas Corpus''' 

" A simple prohibition, declaring that no person 
holding the commission of Massachusetts as justice 
of the peace or other magistrate shall assume to act 
as a slave-hunting commissioner, or counsel of any 
slave-hunter under some proper penalty," he thought, 
" would go far to render the existing Slave Act in- 
operative." This radical idea was subsequently em- 
bodied in the Massachusetts Personal Liberty Law, 
enacted by the Know-Nothing Legislature of 1855, 



which, also, incorporated the principle of equality 
before the law, announced several years before by 
Sumner, in a bill abolishing all discrimination on ac- 
count of race or color in the public schools of the 

" We, too" Sumner pleaded with the friends of free- 
dom, in his address on " The Anti-Slavery Enterprise: 
Its Necessity, Practicability, and Dignity," delivered 
in Boston, New-York, Brooklyn, and Auburn to large 
and appreciative audiences during the year 1855; 
" We, too, must be united. Among us at last mutual 
criticism, crimination, and feud must give place to 
mutual sympathy, trust, and alliance. Face to face 
against the Slave Oligarchy must be rallied the 
UNITED MASSES of the North, in compact politi- 
cal association — planted on the everlasting base of 
justice — knit together by instincts of a common dan- 
ger and holy sympathies of humanity — enkindled by 
love of Freedom, not only for themselves, but for 
others — determined to enfranchise the National Gov- 
ernment from degrading thraldom — and constituting 
the BACKBONE PARTY, powerful in numbers, 
wealth, and intelligence, but more powerful still in an 
inspiring cause. Let this be done, and victory will 
be ours." 

"Though the Republican party," says "Wilson's 
Rise and Fall of the Slave-Power in America," " was 
not immediately organized in the free States, its 
spirit inspired and its ideas largely pervaded the 
North. Within one year eleven Republican Senators 
were elected and fifteen States had secured anti- 
Nebraska majorities. Out of one hundred and forty- 
two Northern members of the House, one hundred 



and twenty were opposed to the iniquitous measure. 
They were in sufficient numbers not only to control 
the election of Speaker, but they were able, by a 
majority of fifteen, to declare that, ' in the opinion of 
this House, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise of 
1820, prohibiting slavery north of 36 30', was an ex- 
ample of useless and factious agitation of the slavery 
question, unwise and unjust to the American 
people.' " 

Meanwhile, fast thickening was the plot of the na- 
tional tragedy. As soon as the Government had 
adopted the" squatter sovereignty " scheme of Doug- 
las in settling the territorial question, the two sec- 
tions precipitated their forces upon the debatable 
land, and closed in a death-struggle for its posses- 
sion. For the first time the antagonistic social sys- 
tems of the Union came into physical collision. 
Showers of bullets and blood dashed from the dark- 
ening skies above Kansas. Civil war between the 
North and the South had actually begun. 

According to the new dogma, the Territories were 
to belong to that section which should succeed in 
making the greatest show of heads. The fate of 
slavery, 1. <?., whether it should be " voted up or 
voted down," was committed, by the authors of the 
abrogation of the Missouri Compromise, to the arbit- 
rament of the ballot. In the trial of strength, in this 
regard, which followed, the decided superiority of 
the free States was demonstrated. Their superior 
colonizing resources gave them, at once, an immense 
advantage in the contest for possession. Certainly 
Kansas could not be captured for Slavery by numeri- 
cal strength. 



Worsted as it clearly was in a count of polls, the 
South straightway threw itself back upon fraud and 
force as allies in the struggle with its powerful free 
rival. The cartridge-box was at every election in the 
territory substituted for the ballot-box by bands of 
border ruffians from Missouri, under the leadership 
of a United States Senator. The history of Kansas, 
during this period, is a history of anarchy and terror. 
Monstrous frauds waltzed back and forth with mon- 
strous crimes against freedom. Popular sov- 
ereignty, private rights, public order, were all out- 
raged by the instruments of the slave-power, from 
the chief magistrate of the nation to the lawless 
Missouri raiders. 

This bloody duel between freedom and slavery 
agitated the North to depths not stirred before. It 
riveted the attention of Congress and President. The 
smell of powder from that far-off battle-field was to 
the country what the smell of meat is to a cage of 
wild beasts. The counter-currents of the storm with 
its double electric centres, accumulated and escaped 
chaotically as lions enraged roar and plunge against 
prison bars. The secondary centre of the disturb- 
ance was above Kansas, the primary over the seat of 
Government at Washington. From storm-centre to 
storm-centre the " live thunder " leaped, when Kansas 
began its opposite and discordant raps upon the door 
of Congress for admission into the Union. 

At this juncture, Sumner delivered in the Senate, 
during two days, May 19th and 20th, 1856, a philippic 
of extraordinary range and power against the op- 
pressors of a free, suffering, and heroic people. His 
" Crime Against Kansas " was another speech crisis- 



born. It was an explosive outbreak of the forces of 
a long-gathering tempest, its terrific lightning-flash 
and stroke, the sulphurous throat and vent of the 
hot, surcharged heart of the North. 

Contemporary accounts agree that the great orator 
was at his best during those two May days. The un- 
measured contumely and insolence of the represen- 
tatives of the slave-power, had aroused him to such 
militancy and fire of manner, argument, rejoinder, 
and invective, as he had not before displayed on the 
floor of the Senate. For two months Kansas had 
been the subject of debate in that body. And for 
two months he had listened to the stream of South- 
ern insult and denunciation, poured upon himself 
and associates, and upon the friends of freedom at 
the North and in Kansas. 

Contemporary accounts agree also that the audi- 
ence was in keeping with the character of the occa- 
sion and the fame of the orator. With one or two 
exceptions the members of the Senate were in their 
seats, and the lobbies crowded with powerful poli- 
ticians, such as Robert J. Walker, Francis P. Blair, 
and Thurlow Weed. Among these were visible many 
of the leading spirits of the House. The ladies' gal- 
lery could not contain the fair ones, who overflowed 
into the anteroom of the Senate Chamber. There, 
within his eye, the orator had his assailants. The fell 
and determined face of Douglas watched him with 
ill-concealed hate and rage from the floor while he 
spoke. And there darkening, hard-by, with violent 
and malignant passions, was the haughty and bitter 
countenance of his old enemy, James M. Mason. 
The peevish and supercilious visage of his other old 



enemy, A. P. Butler, of South Carolina, crowned 
with silver locks, was, however, missing from the 
concourse of hostile faces which confronted Sumner 
during these two days on which he held the atten- 
tion of the Senate, the lobbies, and the galleries. 
The Senator from South Carolina, having shot his 
quiver of shafts during the debate, had left for his 
Southern home, little dreaming, doubtless, of the dis- 
comfiture which was to overtake him from the strong 
arm and long bow of the Northern giant. 

Expectation looked that first day from the eyes of 
friends and foes alike. And from the opening and 
solemn sentences of the famous speech, beginning, 
"Mr. President, you are now called to redress a 
great wrong. Seldom in the history of nations is 
such a question presented. Tariff, army bills, navy 
bills, land bills, are important, and justly occupy 
your care; but these all belong to the courses of 
ordinary legislation," etc., to the impassioned and 
imposing peroration, closing: " In just regard for 
free-labor which you would blast by deadly contact 
with slave-labor — in Christian sympathy with the 
slave, whom you would task and sell — in stern con- 
demnation of the crime consummated on that beau- 
tiful soil — in rescue of fellow-citizens, now subjugated 
to tyrannical usurpation — in dutiful respect for the 
early fathers, whose aspirations are ignobly thwarted 
— in the name of the Constitution outraged, of the 
laws trampled down, of justice banished, of humanity 
degraded, of peace destroyed, of freedom crushed to 
earth — and in the name of the Heavenly Father, 
whose service is perfect freedom, I make this last ap- 
peal." It is no exaggeration to say that the expecta- 



tions excited by the orator and the occasion were 
fully realized, and, indeed, surpassed by the force 
and grandeur of the performance. 

There are passages that make one think of Burke, 
and of those unequaled descriptions of his, in the 
Impeachment of Warren Hastings, of the sufferings of 
India. Here is one. Sumner has been commenting 
upon the character of the people of bleeding Kansas, 
as peaceful tillers of the soil, and continues thus : 
" Such are the people of Kansas, whose security has 
been overthrown. Scenes from which civilization 
averts her countenance are part of their daily life. 
Border incursions, which in barbarous lands fretted 
and harried an exposed people, are here renewed, 
with this peculiarity, that our border robbers do not 
simply levy blackmail and drive off a few cattle, like 
those who acted under the inspiration of the Doug- 
las of other days, they do not seize a few persons and 
sweep them away into captivity, like the African 
slave-traders, whom we brand as pirates, but they 
commit a succession of deeds in which border sorrows 
and African wrongs are revived together on American 
soil, while, for the time being, all protection is an- 
nulled, and the whole Territory is enslaved. 

" Private griefs mingle their poignancy with public 
wrongs. I do not dwell on the anxieties of families 
exposed to sudden assault, and lying down to rest 
with the alarms of war ringing in the ears, not know- 
ing that another day may be spared to them. Through- 
out this bitter winter, with the thermometer at thirty 
degrees below zero, the citizens of Lawrence were 
constrained to sleep under arms, with sentinels pacing 
constant watch against surprise. Our souls are wrung 


2 7 I 

by individual instances. In vain do we condemn 
the cruelties of another age, the refinements of tor- 
ture to which men were doomed, the rack and thumb- 
screw of the Inquisition, the last agonies of the regi- 
cide Ravaillac. 

" ' Luke's iron crown, and Damien's bed of steel ; ' 

for kindred outrages disgrace these borders. Mur- 
der stalks, assassination skulks in the tall grass of the 
prairie, and the vindictiveness of man assumes un- 
wonted forms. A preacher of the Gospel has been 
ridden on a rail, then thrown into the Missouri, fast- 
ened to a log, and left to drift down its muddy, 
tortuous current. And lately we have the tidings of 
that enormity without precedent, a deed without a 
name, where a candidate for the legislature was most 
brutally gashed with knives and hatchets, and then, 
after weltering in blood on the snow-clad earth, trun- 
dled along, with gaping wounds, to fall dead before 
the face of his wife." 

More than one slave champion, during these two 
days, encountered the shock of Sumner's powerful 
lance, recoiled from the mastiff-like glare and spring 
of invective and rejoinder. Two Senators, in partic- 
ular, suffered severely in this regard. They were 
Stephen A. Douglas and Arthur P. Butler, whom 
Sumner dubbed, respectively, the Don Quixote and the 
Sancho Panza of slavery. The physical dissimilitude 
of the Senatorial pair, and resemblance to the famous 
knight and squire of Cervantes, rendered the charac- 
terization a palpable parliamentary hit. Sumner's 
punishment of these gentlemen was merciless, terrible, 
but, all the same, it was, to the last degree, deserved. 



The Defender of Humanity got no quarter, and gave 

" The Senator copies the British officer," the speaker 
is now bringing the Northern hammer crashing upon 
the helmet of the " Little giant." " The Senator copies 
the British, officer who, with boastful swagger, said that 
with the end of his sword he would cram the 'stamps' 
down the throats of the American people; and he will 
meet a similar failure. He may convulse this country 
with civil feud. Like the ancient madman, he may 
set fire to this temple of Constitutional Liberty, 
grander than Ephesian Dome ; but he cannot enforce 
obedience to that tyrannical usurpation. 

" The Senator dreams that he can subdue the North. 
He disclaims the open threat, but his conduct implies 
it. How little that Senator knows himself, or the 
cause which he persecutes. . . . Against him are 
stronger battalions than any marshaled by mortal 
arm, the inborn, ineradicable, invincible sentiments of 
the human heart; against him is nature with all her 
subtile forces ; against him is God. Let him try to 
subdue these." 

Here is a specimen of the way in which the Don 
Quixote of slavery was handled: "With regret I 
come again upon the Senator from South Carolina 
(Mr. Butler), who, omnipresent in this debate, over- 
flows with rage at the simple suggestion that Kansas 
has applied for admission as a free State, and with 
incoherent phrase, discharges the loose expectoration 
of his speech, now upon her representatives, and then 
upon her people. There was no extravagance of the 
ancient parliamentary debate which he did not repeat, 
nor was there any possible deviation from truth which 



he did not make, with so much of passion, I gladly 
add, as to save him from the suspicion of intentional 
aberration. But the Senator touches nothing which he 
does not disfigure with error, sometimes of principle, 
sometimes of fact. He shows an incapacity of accu- 
racy, whether in stating the Constitution or in stating 
the law, whether in details of statistics or diversions 
of scholarship. He cannot ope his mouth, but out 
there flies a blunder." . . . 

By the time that the great speech was ended, the 
representatives of the slave-power were overflow- 
ing with rage and vindictiveness, bordering closely 
on open violence. Douglas, in particular, signalized 
himself by the fury and ferocity with which he threw 
himself upon speech and speaker. Nothing, if not 
savage and audacious in debate, Doughs was 
certainly savage and audacious enough then. Beside 
himself, he foamed with choler and vituperation. 
Once during the turbid stream of personalities, 
emitted by him, he exclaimed, " Is it his object to 
provoke some of us to kick him as we would a dog 
in the street, that he may get sympathy upon the 
just chastisement ? " No doubt now that the North- 
ern Hammer in the hands of the Northern giant had 
inflicted serious execution upon the forces of slavery. 
It had struck home among them, which the frenzied 
outcries and execrations of the wounded fully 

James M. Mason followed in a personal assault 
which showed how deep a wound he received at the 
hand of Sumner two years before, and how freshly it 
still rankled. " I have said that the necessity of 
political position," stormed Mr. Mason, " alone brings 



me into relations with men upon this floor who else- 
where I cannot acknowledge as possessing manhood 
in any form. I am constrained to hear here deprav- 
ity, vice in its most odious form uncoiled in this 
presence, exhibiting its loathsome deformities in 
accusation and villification against the quarter of the 
country from which I come ; and I must listen to it 
because it is a necessity of my position, under a 
common Government, to recognize as an equal polit- 
ically one whom to see elsewhere is to shun and 

But Sumner was not yet done with these gentle- 
men. And so when the tempest in the Senate had 
somewhat abated, he arose and seizing the great 
Northern Hammer threw himself upon Douglas and 
Mason in a fierce and final rejoinder, which must 
have left no doubt in the minds of his assailants, 
that if they were disposed to continue their assault 
upon him, he was likewise ready to receive them, to 
return them blow for blow. 

To Douglas Sumner addressed himself thus : " To 
the Senator from Illinois I shall willingly yield the 
privilege of the common scold — the last word ; but I 
will not yield to him, in any discussion with me, the 
last argument, or the last semblance of it. He has 
crowned the outrage of this debate by venturing to 
rise here and calumniate me. He has said that I 
came here, took an oath to support the Constitution, 
and yet determined not to support a particular clause 
in that Constitution. To that statement I give, to 
his face, the flattest denial. When it was made 
previously on this floor by the absent Senator from 
South Carolina [Mr. Butler], I then repelled it ; 



you shall see how explicitly and completely." Here 
Mr. Sumner paused to read extracts from his speech 
made June 28, 1854, in proof of his allegation, and 
then went on : " Yes, in face of all this, which 
occurred in open debate on the floor of the Senate, 
which is here in the records of the country, and has 
been extensively circulated, quoted, discussed, criti- 
cised, the Senator from Illinois, in the swiftness of 
his audacity, presumes to assail me. Perhaps I had 
better leave that Senator without a word more ; but 
this is not the first, or the second, or the third, or the 
fourth time that he has launched against me his 
personalities. Sir, if this be agreeable to him, I 
make no complaint, though for the sake of truth 
and the amenities of debate, I would wish that he 
had directed his assaults upon my arguments ; but 
since he has presumed to touch me, he will not com- 
plain, if I administer to him a word of advice. 

"' ir, this is the Senate of the United States, an 
important body under the Constitution, with great 
powers. Its members are justly supposed from 
years to be above the intemperance of youth, and 
from character to be above the gusts of vulgarity. 
They are supposed to have something of wisdom, and 
something of that candor which is the handmaid of 
wisdom. Let the Senator bear these things in mind, 
and remember hereafter that the bowie-knife and 
bludgeon are not proper emblems of senatorial debate. 
Let him remember that the swagger of Bob Acres 
and the ferocity of the Malay cannot add dignity to 
this body. ... I will not descend to things 
which dropped so naturally from his tongue. I only 
brand them to his face as false. I say also to that 



Senator, and I wish him to bear it in mind, that no 
person with the upright form of man can be allowed 


Mr. Douglas — Say it. 

Mr. Sumner — I will say it — no person with the 
upright form of man can be allowed, without violation 
of all decency, to switch out from his tongue the per- 
petual stench of offensive personality. Sir, this is 
not a proper weapon of debate, at least on this floor. 
The noisome, squat, and nameless animal to which I 
now refer is not the proper model for an American 
Senator. Will the Senator from Illinois take notice ? 

Mr. Douglas — I will, — and therefore will not imi- 
tate you, Sir. 

Mr. Sumner — I did not hear the Senator. 

Mr. Douglas — I said, if that be the case, I would 
certainly never imitate you in that capacity — recog- 
nizing the force of the illustration. 

Mr. Sumner — Mr. President, again the Senator 
switches his tongue, and again he fills the Senate with 
its offensive odor. But I drop the Senator." 

Having settled his account with Douglas, Mr. Sum- 
ner turned and fired this parting shot at Mason : 
" There was still another, the Senator from Virginia, 
who is now also in my eye. That Senator said noth- 
ing of argument, and therefore there is nothing of 
that to be answered. I simply say to him that hard 
words are not arguments, frowns are not reasons, nor 
do scowls belong to the proper arsenal of parlimentary 
debate. The Senator has not forgotten that on a 
former occasion I did something to exhibit the plan- 
tation manners which he displays. I will not do any 
more now." 



When Sumner had finished his speech and assail- 
ants, John A. Bingham, a member of the House from 
Ohio, who had come over to the Senate to listen to 
the great philippic, and who was an eye and ear wit- 
ness of the scenes in the Senate Chamber which fol- 
lowed its delivery, became convinced that Sumner 
was in danger of personal violence upon the adjourn- 
ment of that body. This apprehension he communi- 
cated to Mr. Sumner's colleague, Henry Wilson, who 
was so much struck with the force of it that he lost 
no time in communicating it in turn to his friend. 
" I am going home with you to-day," said he to Sum- 
ner; " several of us are going home with you." To 
which his friend made short answer, " None of that, 

If Sumner was absolutely fearless in debate, he was 
absolutely fearless in other respects also. And so 
instead of allowing Wilson and other friends to 
accompany him home that day, he eluded their pru- 
dence by shooting off as on other days without them. 
Not thinking that the object of their anxious care had 
already left the Capitol, Henry Wilson, Anson Bur- 
lingame, and Schuyler Colfax waited for him on the 
floor of the Senate, but perceiving after a while that he 
was not visible, they, too, left the Capitol, but stopped 
for some time at the porter's lodge until they learned 
that he had gone home. Meanwhile, Sumner, going 
his wonted gait along Pennsylvania Avenue, over- 
took William H. Seward with whom he had an 
engagement to dine that day. Together the two 
statesmen walked on as far as the omnibuses, when 
Mr. Seward proposed that they take one of these 
vehicles. But Sumner who had an errand to the 

2 7 8 


Government printing-office to look over proofs, pos- 
sibly of the speech he had just delivered, excused 
himself and pursued his walk alone, without encoun- 
tering any one to disturb the even tenor of his way. 

The next day the calm continued. The hate was 
there, the vindictive disposition was there. The sul- 
try atmosphere hung heavy with passion over the 
Capitol, but so it had for months before. The twenty- 
first day of May was not different from a hundred 
other days which had preceded it. And so it rose 
and died like them, without the happening of any- 
thing out of the ordinary course of events. But it 
was the eve of a startling act, dark and notable in the 
annals of political crimes in America. 

When the Senate convened on the twenty-second, 
Mr. Sumner was in his place, and wholly unconscious 
of the dreadful scene which was then shortly to be 
enacted in that chamber about his person, of the cloud 
of malignant passion which was impending low above 
him, and was soon to burst in fury on his head. The 
session of the Senate was brief, owing to the death of 
a member of the House from Missouri. After listen- 
ing to a tribute of respect to the dead legislator, the 
Senate, according to custom, immediately adjourned. 
The knock of death at the door of either branch of 
the National Legislature hushes for that day the 
wants and the voices of the living within them. The 
halls become deserted and silent, gloomily in keeping 
with the tenement of clay vacated and the everlasting 
quiet of the grave settling about one, whom those 
scenes and seats of earthly power are to know no 
more forever. 

On this particular occasion the Senators, or at least 



the most of them, upon the adjournment of the Senate, 
presently dispersed and went their several ways, leav- 
ing the chamber and the anteroom to a few of their 
number, among whom was Mr. Sumner. There lin- 
gered, besides, one or two members from the House 
and sundry visitors, some of whom desired to meet 
the Massachusetts Senator, who having managed to 
put them off to a more convenient hour, had seated 
himself at his desk, and was busily preparing his mail 
for the afternoon post North. Sumner with his arm- 
chair close to his desk, with his long legs well under 
it, which, by-the-way, was not movable but screwed 
firmly to the floor, and with his head bent low was 
writing very rapidly, for he was, as he expressed it, 
writing on time, and needed to make haste. He was 
oblivious of everything about him but that upon 
which he was engaged. He would have made a cap- 
ital representation of indefatigable attention, of su- 
preme mental absorption, for the chisel of some Michael 
Angelo or Thorwaldsen. There was the broad and 
powerful back, the Herculean shoulders and arms, the 
splendid leonine head, covered with masses of thick 
hair, the whole thrown forward and down into posi- 
tion, which together gave an impression of such con- 
centration and strength as one would have to look 
long and far to find. 

He had been thus intently employed for perhaps 
fifteen or thirty minutes, when, hearing his name pro- 
nounced and looking up, he saw a tall man of unfa- 
miliar countenance, standing in front of and directly 
over him. The strange man was speaking and Sum- 
ner heard the words: "I have read your speech twice 
over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and 



Mr. Butler who is a relative of mine — n And then he 
heard no more, but received without warning a mur- 
derous blow upon his head, which the tall man dealt 
with a stout walking stick which he held in his hand. 
This blow was repeated in quick succession upon the 
uncovered and now bleeding head of Mr. Sumner, 
who was stunned and blinded by the first terrible 
stroke from the stick. Dazed, and no longer able to 
distinguish the ruffian who was assaulting him or any 
object in the room, but impelled by the instinct of 
self-defense, Sumner tried to rise to grapple with and 
disarm his brutal foe. But the desk under which his 
legs were thrust held him a prisoner. And though 
thus pinioned and helpless, the assault went on with 
the greatest ferocity, until the desk, screwed to the 
floor, was wrenched up by the agonized struggles of 
the eloquent friend of man. Released, with body 
bent forward, and arms thrown up to protect his 
bleeding head, he staggered to his feet only to fall 
insensible over his desk to the floor where his assail- 
ant continued the shower of blows, until seized and 
pulled off of his noble victim by Messrs. Morgan and 
Murray, two Congressmen from the state of New 

On the floor of the Senate, Sumner lay, with blood 
upon his head and garments, with blood flowing from 
many wounds and soaking into the carpet under 
him, with the pallor of death upon face and brow, 
unconscious alike of pain, and his enemies, and the 
awful horror of it all. He was presently succored by 
faithful friends, and borne to a sofa in the lobby, 
where doctors dressed his wounds, and thence he 
was carried to his lodgings. There, suffering, bewil- 



dered, almost speechless, he spent the first night of 
the tragedy and of his long years of martyrdom. 

The author of this murderous and dastardly assault 
was Preston S. Brooks, a member of Congress from 
South Carolina, and a nephew of Butler, Mr. Sum- 
ner's old enemy. There were associated with him in 
the commission of the crime, two Southern accom- 
plices, Lawrence M. Keitt, member of Congress from 
South Carolina, and Henry A. Edmundson, a mem- 
ber from Virginia. Mr. James W. Simonton, reporter 
of the New York Times, and who was an eye witness 
of the appalling deed, testified before the Congres- 
sional Investigation Committee, concerning the part 
borne by Keitt in connection with the outrage. See- 
ing that Brooks was striking Mr. Sumner, who had 
already fallen to the floor, Mr. Simonton, with others, 
ran towards them to interfere, when u Keitt rushed 
in, running around Mr. Sumner and Mr. Brooks with 
his cane raised, crying, ' Let them alone, G — d d — n 
you ! ' " 

At the time of the assault, there were in the ante- 
room of the Senate several Senators known to be 
hostile to Mr. Sumner. Among these was Doug- 
las, who had, two days before, asked in debate 
whether it was Mr. Sumner's intention to provoke 
some of them to kick him as they " would a dog in 
the street"; there was also Robert Toombs, who, on 
that day, and a subsequent one from his place in the 
Senate, boldly approved the act ; there was, besides, 
John Slidell, of Louisiana, who, with Mason, of Vir- 
ginia, were to cut such a sorry figure in the Rebel- 
lion. That beautiful specimen of Southern chivalry 
avowed without a blush, in the Senate, that he and 



his friends in the anteroom heard " without any par- 
ticular emotion " " that somebody was beating Mr. 

On the next day when the Senate convened, Mr. 
Wilson, immediately after the reading of the journal, 
called the attention of that body to the outrage 
which had been enacted in that chamber the preced- 
ing day upon his colleague, and suggested that steps 
should be taken to redress the wrong, "and to vindi- 
cate the honor and dignity of the Senate." Mr. 
Seward thereupon moved the appointment by the 
president of a committee to inquire into the circum- 
stances attending the tragic affair. The appointment 
of the committee, on motion of Mr. Mason, was taken 
out of the hands of the president and put in those 
of the Senate, who proceeded to exhibit its animus 
in respect of the matter by ignoring the parliamen- 
tary claims of Messrs. Seward and Wilson to places 
on the committee, and by electing instead two 
Southern Senators and three Northern ones under 
Southern influences to conduct the proposed investi- 

The Northern Doughfaces it is well to name. They 
were a Mr. Allen, of Rhode Island; a Mr. Dodge, 
of Wisconsin; and one Lewis Cass, of Michigan, who 
the reader will recall as having for the sake of the 
Presidency, recanted his free State opinion touching 
the prohibition of slavery in the national Territories 
The committee performed, to the satisfaction of those 
who appointed it, its partisan and non-committa 
part, merely giving in its report a brief statement o 
the facts of the case, without any expression o 
opinion thereon, though distinctly instructed by th 


resolution of Mr. Seward that so it should do. It 
begged to inform the Senate that it could not arrest 
or punish a member of the House for breach of its 
privileges, and that the most that it could do in the 
premises was to make a complaint to the House of 
which Brooks was a member. That is what the Sen- 
ate did, by simply ordering that " a copy of this 
report, and the affidavits accompanying the same, be 
transmitted to the House of Representatives." And 
there the pro-slavery Senate dropped the matter. 

Quite otherwise was the subject treated by the 
House, which was at that time presided over by a 
Northern Speaker with Northern principles, and 
controlled by a strong anti-Nebraska membership. 
The committee appointed to investigate the matter 
was composed, as was that of the Senate, of three 
from the North and two from the South, with this 
decided difference, however, that, in the case of the 
House committee, the three from the North were not 
of the breed of Northern Doughfaces. They accord- 
ingly concluded their report to the House with reso- 
lutions expelling Brooks, and censuring Keitt and 
Edmundson. The Northern members of the com- 
mittee were Lewis D. Campbell, of Ohio; Travis E. 
Spinner, of New York; and A. C. M. Pennington, of 
New Jersey. 

The two Southern members, one of whom was 
Howell Cobb, of Georgia, the other some Southern 
obscurity from Arkansas, of the name of Greenwood, 
signed a minority report which concluded with a reso- 
lution of want of jurisdiction over the " alleged as- 
sault " case on the part of the House, and with a cool 
refusal " to express any opinion on the subject," which 



the House promptly voted down by a large majority 
Owing to the rule requiring a two-thirds vote to 
expel a member, the resolution of expulsion was 
lost, the vote standing yeas 121, nays 95. Keitt w, 
censured, while Edmundson, probably for lack 
direct evidence implicating him in the attack on Mr 
Sumner, escaped. 

Brooks, in anticipation of the adverse action of th< 
House, had placed his resignation in the hands of th< 
Governor of South Carolina, to take effect on thi 
announcement by him to the House of his resigna 
tion. After the vote on the resolution of expulsion 
seeing how matters would go with him next, and t 
avoid a vote of censure which would have certainl 
followed, the Southern bully obtained the floor an 
addressed the house in vindication of himself, at the 
close of w T hich he announced that he was "no longe 
a member of the Thirty-fourth Congress." 

In the course of his vindication, w T hich was alto 
gether worthy of him, the Congressional ruffian le 
the House into his confidence thus : " I went t< 
work very deliberately, as I am charged — and this i 
admitted — and speculated somewhat as to whether 
should employ a horsewhip or a cowhide ; but know 
ing that the Senator w T as my superior in strength, i 
occurred to me that he might wrest it from my hand 
and then — for I never attempt anything I do not 
perform — / might have been co?npelled to do that which 
I would have regretted the balance of my natural life* 
At this point a voice from the house said, " He wou 
have killed him ! " 

Brooks's constituency vindicated their knight of the 
bludgeon by ''triumphantly" reelecting him to tb 


Thirty-fourth Congress, where in the August follow- 
ing his resignation he again took his seat. The fact 
is, had Preston S. Brooks's reelection depended, not 
alone upon the District in South Carolina, but upon 
the whole South, he would have received it not less 
triumphantly. After the commission of the crime he 
became the hero of that section, was held up for the 
imitation of its youth, the admiration of its man- 
hood, and for the enthusiastic support and gratitude 
of every white man, woman, and child true to its 
interests. Brooks had, verily, become the Southern 
darling of the hour. 

At a meeting of some of his admirers " Gutta- 
percha " was highly commended as a proper weapon 
of reply to " Northern fanatics." Another meeting 
voted the champion a cane with the inscription : 
" Use knockdown arguments" Another still presented 
him with the new symbol of Southern chivalry, bear- 
ing the classic legend " Hit him again" While yet a 
fourth proposed to garnish another of the noble 
parliamentary weapons with " a device of the human 
head, badly cracked and broken." The South had 
gone mad, was indeed well advanced in the terrible 
suicidal and homicidal mania which was four years 
later to reach its climax in the great Rebellion. 

The fever which precedes the delirium of war, had 
attacked the much-suffering North also. The Kansas 
iniquity and the outrage upon Sumner tended to 
send the blood of the free States to the point where 
peace becomes impossible, and an appeal to force in 
the settlement of their long-standing account with 
the slave States inevitable. Excitement was every- 
where, excitement was filling the land with the wide, 



chaotic rumblings of the gathering tempest. Flashes 
of the pent-up passions of a day of wrath, which were 
leaping from the Southern skies, were breaking like- 
wise out of the thunder cloud which had risen in the 
Northern air and was spreading over the free States. 

Two circumstances, growing out of the assault 
upon Mr. Sumner, indicated that the tension of the 
storm would presently reach its point of explosion 
One of these is the story of Henry Wilson's denun- 
ciation in the Senate of the attack as "a brutal, mur- 
derous, and cowardly assault," and what came of it. 
The first thing which came of it was Mr. Butler's ex- 
clamation from his seat — "You are a liar!" which 
seemed to signify that the period of argument was 
fast passing away and that the period of violence was 
fast coming in. The second thing which came of it, 
were threats of personal violence from Brooks's 
friends and a challenge from the bully himself. The 
manner in which Mr. Wilson met the latter was 
simply admirable, at once dignified and spirited, 
altogether worthy of the superior civilization of his 

" I characterized," so runs Wilson's reply to the 
challenge, " I characterized, on the floor of the Sen- 
ate, the assault upon my colleague as 1 brutal, murder- 
ous, and cowardly.' I thought so then. I think so 
now. I have no qualification whatever to make in 
regard to those words. I have never entertained in 
the Senate or elsewhere, the idea of personal respons- 
ibility, in the sense of the duellist. I have always 
regarded duelling as the lingering relic of a barbarous 
civilization, which the law of the country has branded 
as crime. While, therefore, I religiously believe in 



the right of self-defense in its broadest sense, the law 
of my country and the matured convictions of my 
whole life alike forbid me to meet you for the pur- 
pose indicated in your letter." After this Wilson 
armed himself, for he was determined, if assailed, to 
defend his life at any cost. 

The other circumstance was Anson Burlingame's 
stern denunciation of the outrage on the floor of the 
House, and what came of it. Burlingame pictured 
how, " The Senator from Massachusetts sat in the 
silence of the Senate Chamber, engaged in the em- 
ployments appertaining to his office, when a member 
from this House, who had taken an oath to sustain the 
Constitution, stole into the Senate, that place which 
had hitherto been held sacred against violence, and 
smote him as Cain smote his brother." Whereupon 
the following threatening scene ensued : 

Mr. Keitt (in his seat) — That is false. 

Mr. Burlingame — I will not bandy epithets with 
the gentleman. I am responsible for my own lan- 
guage. Doubtless he is responsible for his. 

Mr. Keitt — I am. 

Mr. Burlingame — I shall stand by mine. 

" Sir," Burlingame continued, " the act was brief, 
and my comments on it shall be brief also. I de- 
nounce it in the name of the Constitution it violated. 
I denounce it in the name of the sovereignty of Mas- 
sachusetts, which was stricken down by the blow. I 
denounce it in the name of civilization, which it out- 
raged. I denounce it in the name of humanity. I 
denounce it in the name of that fair play which bul- 
lies and prize-fighters respect." 

The author of this five-time denounced crime was, 



of course, ready with a challenge, which was promptly 
accepted by Burlingame, who named the following 
terms: "Weapons, rifles; distance, twenty paces; 
place, District of Columbia; time of meeting, the next 
morning." These terms were modified by Congress- 
man Campbell, who acted as Mr. Burlingame's friend, 
so that the place of meeting read, " Clifton House, 
Canada," instead of District of Columbia, as in the 
original. To Mr.CampbeH's substitute Brooks's friends 
made great ado, alleging that it would not be safe 
for their principal to travel through the North to the 
place of meeting, and accordingly refused to agree 
to the terms, which had the effect to prevent the 
meeting from taking place. It is possible that the 
choice of weapons, as well as the choice of place, ex- 
erted upon the Southern fire-eaters a deterrent influ- 
ence. For it was understood that Burlingame was a 
dead shot with the rifle. In naming it the Massachu- 
setts Congressman meant, without doubt, to kill his 
antagonist. The meeting between Burlingame and 
Brooks never took place, but the duel between Mas- 
sachusetts and South Carolina, freedom and slavery, 
was only postponed. 

The Legislature of Massachusetts launched against 
the outrage its stern condemnation, and called loudly 
upon Congress to punish the wrong-doer. Public 
meetings throughout the State, and, for that matter, 
throughout the free States, testified to the universal 
horror excited by the crime at the North, and the 
vehemence of the tide of indignant feeling, which 
then swept over the face of that section. Men, with- 
out regard to party, shouted shame on the dastard 
and his deed. A tremendous chorus of popular 



amazement and indignation burst like thunder from 
one end of the free States to the other. 

President Wayland, of Brown University, Provi- 
dence, R. I., who in 1835 gave the Abolitionists the 
cold shoulder, and actually defended, to Harriet 
Martineau, the Broadcloth mob which dragged Gar- 
rison through the streets of Boston, was in 1856 in a 
wholly different mood. At an indignation meeting 
in Providence he declared: " I was born free, and I 
cannot be made a slave. I bow before the universal 
intelligence and conscience of my country, and, when 
I think this defective, I claim the privilege of using 
my poor endeavors to enlighten it. But to submit 
my reason to the bludgeon of a bully or the pistol of 
an assassin I cannot ; nor can I tamely behold a step 
taken which leads inevitably to such a consumma- 

Peleg W. Chandler, of Boston, who for ten years 
had been Mr. Sumner's political opponent, said, at a 
great meeting in Faneuil Hall, that the blow struck at 
Sumner was " a blow not merely at Massachusetts, a 
blow not merely at the name and fame of our com- 
mon country, it is a blow at constitutional liberty all 
the world over, it is a stab at the cause of Universal 
Freedom. It is aimed at all men, everywhere, who 
are struggling for what we now regard as our great 
birthright, and which we intend to transmit unim- 
paired to our latest posterity." 

Professor C. C. Felton, whose early intimacy with 
Sumner, the reader will recall, but which the latter's 
political course had brought to an end, at a public 
meeting in Cambridge confessed that while he had 
had nothing to do with the election of his sometime 



friend to the Senate, yet that under the then circum- 
stances had he " five hundred votes, every one should 
be given to send him back again." 

At Concord, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who, when he 
spoke, like the shot fired by the farmers in 1775, was 
heard round the world, said, as only he could say it: 
" But I wish, sir, that the high respects of this meeting 
shall be expressed to Mr. Sumner, that a copy of the 
resolutions that have been read may be forwarded 
to him. I wish that he may know the shudder of 
terror that ran through all this community on the 
first tidings of this brutal attack. Let him hear that 
every man of worth in New England loves his vir- 
tues — that every mother thinks of him as the pro- 
tector of families — that every friend of freedom 
thinks him the friend of freedom. And if our arms 
at this distance cannot defend him from assassins, we 
confide the defense of a life so precious to all honor- 
able men and true patriots, and to the Almighty 
maker of men." 

Oliver Wendell Holmes, whom his best friend or 
worst enemy could not accuse of sympathy for the 
slave, proposed at the dinner of the Massachusetts 
Medical Society, at the Revere House, Boston, this sen- 
timent: " The Surgeons of the City of Washingto?i — God 
grant them wisdom ! for they are dressing the 
wounds of a mighty empire and of uncounted gener- 

It was, in truth, exactly as Henry Wilson declared 
on the floor of the Senate in reply to Butler of South 
Carolina, " that of the twelve hundred thousand 
people of Massachusetts, you cannot find in the State 
one thousand, administration office-holders included, 



who do not look with loathing and execration upon 
the outrage on the person of their Senator and the 
honor of their State." And he went on to add what the 
facts would have borne out, that, " The sentiment of 
Massachusetts, of New England, of the North, ap- 
proaches unanimity." It did, indeed, thanks to the 
violence of the Southern desperado. 

What became of Brooks? We may as well tell now 
what remains to be told in regard to him, and thus 
rid these pages of the infamous man. He was 
indicted by the Grand Jury of the District of Colum- 
bia, tried, and convicted of the crime, and sentenced 
to pay a fine of three hundred dollars. Eight months 
after the commission of the outrage, he expired in 
great agony of membranous croup, in the city of 
Washington. So terribly did he suffer, just before 
dying, that it was reported in the newspapers the 
next morning that, " He endeavored to tear his own 
throat open to get breath." His uncle, Senator But- 
ler, did not survive him long, but passed away at his 
far-away Carolina home, in that very month of May, 
and almost on the very date on which, a year before, 
the assault on Mr. Sumner was made. The two 
deaths following so quickly upon that horror, and 
the one upon the other, seemed to tens of thousands 
at the North like a direct interposition of a just God 
in the affairs of the nation. And until we know more 
about the occult ways of the Divine Governor of this 
world of ours who shall say that this popular feeling 
was only a silly popular superstition ? Not the 
writer of these pages certainly. 

But to return to Sumner. On the wings of the 
murderous assault upon him, he mounted to an 



enduring place in the Pantheon of the Republic. He 
became associated thenceforth with the weal of States, 
his fate with the fortunes of a great people. The 
mad act had done for him what similar madness had 
done for similar victims, magnified immensely his 
name and influence, secured forever his position as 
an imposing historic character. The New York 
Courier and Enquirer observed on this head in the 
summer of 1856, as follows : 

" The fact is incontestable, that, when the Massa- 
chusetts Senator again crosses the threshold of that 
Senate Chamber, slavery will have to confront the 
most formidable foe it ever had to face before the 
public eye. . . . Hitherto he has figured but in 
one character, the assailant of slavery ; henceforth 
he will be also the accredited asserter and champion 
of the most sacred right of freedom of speech, and as 
such will command tenfold greater consideration. 
His antagonists have affected to despise him before, 
and to treat him with scorn. The day for that has 
passed. The public man, who has once been the 
occasion of such an outburst of sympathy and good- 
will as has within the last week sprung from the 
mouth of millions upon millions of his countrymen, is 
no longer a man to be disdained. He has henceforth 
position, power, and security beyond any of his ad- 

Ah ! It was the old, wonderful story. The miracle 
of miracles was again performed ; the good man's 
blood had turned into the seed-corn of his cause. 

The story of the good man's sufferings reveals a 
long and harrowing struggle for health. He had 
upon the head two deep gashes, which laid the scalp 



open to the bone. The strength of the cranium and 
the thick mass of hair which covered the scalp, 
together, saved him, probably, from a fatal fracture 
of the skull. Besides these injuries there were 
bruises on his face, hands, and arms. Bad as these 
were, they were not the worst hurt which followed 
the assault. Had there been no nervous shock, 
Sumner would have speedily recovered from the 
effects of those. But there was a serious nervous 
shock. As the case progressed, this was plainly 
manifested in the patient's sleeplessness and loss of 
flesh, in his incapacity of the briefest mental effort 
without pain and pressure in the head, and soreness 
in the spine, also what appeared like a partial paral- 
ysis of the motor muscles of the lower limbs, which 
rendered physical exertion extremely exhausting. 
To the physicians who were watching over the 
invalid " it was clearly evident that the brain and 
spinal cord had been the seat of a grave and formid- 
able lesion," such as would sometimes require months 
and even years to heal. It did actually require years 
in the case of Sumner. 

From land to land, during four years, he passed, 
pursuing " the phantom of a cup that comes and 
goes." It was, at first, almost impossible for him to 
understand the extreme gravity of his injuries. He 
was sure that he would be well in two weeks and at his 
post in the Senate. But the weeks became months, 
and still he was not well or able to resume his seat. 
From Washington, when he could endure the fatigue 
of so short a journey, he went to Silver Springs near 
by, where he was the guest of the venerable Francis 
P. Blair. In July he reached Philadelphia, where he 


2 9 4 


was tenderly entertained at the home of his friend, 
Rev. W. H. Furness, and later received similar enter- 
tainment at the cottage of Mr. James T. Furness at 
Cape May. Thence he betook himself to Cresson, in 
Pennsylvania, where he tried the effect of mountain 
air upon his painful malady. Here he showed signs 
of gratifying improvement, but his impatience of 
further inaction, and a desire to go home to vote for 
Fremont and Dayton, and for his gallant and devoted 
friend, Anson Burlingame, led him to turn his face 
homeward at the beginning of November. 

The popular reception, which his return to Boston 
evoked, was splendid, enthusiastic, imposing, rival- 
ing in magnitude and impressiveness that other 
which he was to receive eighteen years afterward. It 
was, in truth, a vast groundswell and surge of the 
overflowing sympathy, admiration, and love felt for 
him within the mighty mother-heart of grand old 

On Sunday morning, November 2d, Mr. Sumner 
arrived in the vicinity of Boston, and went direct to 
the home of his friend, Professor H. W. Longfellow, 
in Cambridge. On Monday morning he and others 
drove to the house of Amos A. Lawrence, at Longwood, 
in the town of Brookline, where in the afternoon, he 
was joined by a large number of invited guests, who 
had driven to Longwood from the State House. 
From this point the triumphal journey into Boston 
began. When the carriages reached the boundary 
line of the city they were met by a cavalcade of a 
thousand horsemen and the Committee of Arrange- 
ments, with the Mayor of Boston, Alexander H. Rice, 
and the venerable and illustrious patriot, Josiah 



Quincy, at their head. Eloquent words of introduc- 
tion by Professor F. D. Huntington, now a Bishop in 
the Protestant Episcopal Church, of welcome by Mr. 
Quincy, and of reply by Mr. Sumner followed, when 
the long and almost royal progress through the city 

Along the line of march the people had gathered 
by the tens of thousands, demonstrative, eager to 
catch a glimpse of the Defender of Humanity and of 
their liberties. What the multitude could not ex- 
press by look and shout, inscriptions upon the houses 
helped to reveal, inscriptions grimly commemorative 
of that black day of May when the black deed was 
done which laid low their leader, him who then was 
returning to them bearing his sheaves, and alack! his 
wounds also. What wonder that they filled the ba- 
rouche, in which their hero rode, with flowers, and the 
city with loud huzzas. At the State House, amid in- 
describable scenes, Professor Huntington again spoke 
eloquent words of introduction, while the Governor 
of the Commonwealth, Henry J. Gardner, greeted 
the illustrious invalid in a welcome, warm and gush- 
ing as from the heart of the people whom he repre- 
sented. And then Sumner replied, or at least he 
attempted to reply, but was obliged, owing to failure 
of voice and strength, to desist after speaking for the 
space of three minutes only. 

Other expressions of the State's sympathy and 
affection for the distinguished sufferer there would 
have been had he not himself checked them. In the 
summer of 1856, Governor Gardner recommended 
the assumption of the expenses of Mr. Sumner's ill- 
ness by the commonwealth, and the Senate promptly 



adopted a resolve to the same effect. As soon as Mr. 
Sumner heard of the motion he instructed Mr. Bur- 
lingame to telegraph his positive declination, adding 
at the same time, " Whatever Massachusetss can give, 
let it all go to suffering Kansas." 

About the same time a subscription was started to 
express " to the Hon. Charles Sumner, in some per- 
manent and appropriate form, our admiration of his 
spotless private and public character, of our lively 
gratitude for his dauntless courage in the defense of 
freedom on the floor of Congress, and especially our 
unqualified approbation of his speech in behalf of 
free Kansas, delivered in the Senate on the 20th of 
May last/' etc., etc. Among the early signers of the 
paper were Josiah Quincy, Henry W. Longfellow, 
Jared Sparks, F. D. Huntington, R. H. Dana, Jr., 
Edward Everett, Edwin P. Whipple, Alexander H. 
Rice, Charles Francis Adams, Amasa Walker, Wm. 
Claflin, and Eli Thayer. 

One thousand dollars were already subscribed 
when tidings of this movement reached Sumner. 
Grateful as the action was to him he did not hesitate 
a moment as to the course to pursue in regard to the 
matter. From his sick bed he dictated an explicit re- 
fusal to allow the movement to proceed further, and 
sent it to Mr. Carlos Pierce, the reputed originator 
of the flattering project. " It is enough for me," so 
ran the note, " that you and your generous associates 
approve what I said. Such sympathy and support in 
the cause, of which I am a humble representative, is 
all that I ask for myself, or am willing to accept. 
But the cause itself has constant claims on us all; 
and I trust you will not deem me too bold, if I ex- 


2 9 7 

press a desire that the contributions intended for the 
testimonial to me may be applied at once, and with- 
out abatement of any kind, to the recovery and security 
of freedom in Kansas." 

And this was done. At a meeting of the subscribers, 
after the receipt of his letter, it was "Resolved, That 
the secretary of this meeting be instructed to sub- 
scribe the amount of funds in his hands to aid the 
cause of Freedom in Kansas, in the name of Hon. 
Charles Sumner." And so were the words of the 
brave soul in behalf of outraged Kansas, " hardened 
into deeds." But he was not content with merely 
diverting to Kansas, contributions intended for him- 
self. He contributed directly and generously from 
his own pocket, many times over, timely aid to the 
same noble object. 

In January, 1857, he received his reelection as a 
Senator of the United States, practically with no op- 
position within or without the Legislature. In the 
Senate the vote was unanimous. In the House, 
while it was otherwise, Mr. Sumner got all but twelve 
of the three hundred and forty-five votes cast. 
These twelve non-concurring votes were distributed 
among not less than nine candidates, Robert C. 
Winthrop, Sumner's old opponent getting exactly 
three of them ! 

The Boston Daily Advertiser, commenting on the 
election, made some interesting and significant com- 
parisons of it with that one which occurred six years 
before. It said : " It is impossible to refrain from 
comparing the election of yesterday with Mr. Sum- 
ner's previous election in the same place six years 
ago. Now he receives nearly all .the votes, on the 



first ballot, taken on the third day of the session, 
every member speaking aloud his vote. Then he re- 
ceived only the exact number necessary for a choice 
— one more than half the whole number; and the 
election was not effected until the twenty-sixth bal- 
lot, taken on the one hundred and fourteenth day of 
the session (April 24, 1851), and the votes were 
thrown in sealed envelopes. Then he was the candi- 
date of a party which threw 27,636 votes in the State, 
at the preceding popular election, or about one-fifth 
of the whole number. Now he is the candidate of a 
party which threw 108,190 votes in the State, at the 
last popular election, or about two-thirds of the whole 
number. Then he was chosen to a body where he 
could expect to find but two or three associates sym- 
pathizing with his sentiments. Now he is a member 
of a party which has a majority in the lower House 
of Congress, and numbers a quarter of the members 
even of the Senate of the United States. Truly, tem- 
pora mutantur, nos et mutamur in Mis" 

" Still, and nevertheless, and notwithstanding," as 
Professor Channing, of Harvard University, once 
began a sentence, Mr. Sumner's disability continued. 
On the 4th of March he was sworn as Senator for the 
second term, and three days later sailed for Havre in 
search of health. In December at the opening of 
Congress, he resumed his seat only to find himself, as 
he expressed it, " within the circumscriptions of an 
invalid." Fully aware at last, through a succession 
of relapses, of the gravity of his disease, and of the 
necessity of letting patience have its perfect work in 
another endeavor to recover his lost vigor of body, 
he sailed a second time for Havre, on May 22, 1858, 


just two years, the reader will perceive, after he was 
assaulted in the Senate. 

At Paris, he finally placed himself under the medi- 
cal care of Dr. Brown-Sequard, who to Mr. Sumner's 
inquiry as to the remedy, replied with laconic brevity, 
" Fire." Sumner's resolution was instantly taken. 
" When can you apply it ? " he asked. " To-morrow, 
if you please," the Doctor answered. " Why not this 
afternoon?" was the patient's next question. And 
that afternoon, without anaesthetics of any kind, he 
submitted himself to the treatment by fire, the torture 
of the moxa, which Brown-Sequard has pronounced 
" the greatest suffering that can be inflicted on mortal 
man," indeed not once but seven times did he submit 
himself to its agonies. 

In addition to the moxa, he took cold and hot 
douches at Aix, and sea baths at Havre. At Montpel- 
lier, in the South of France, where he spent the win- 
ter, he was cupped daily on the spine, and passed 
eighteen of the twenty-four hours in a horizontal 
position. In the spring he made a hurried visit to 
Italy, and back again to Paris, where he reported 
himself to Dr. Brown-Sequard who pronounced him 
well. When Congress began in December, 1859, the 
Defender of Humanity was again in his seat, " with a 
certain consciousness of restored health," as he re- 
cords, " although admonished to enter upon work 

His empty seat during those years was the precious 
the inestimable contribution of Massachusetts to the 
holy cause in which he was stricken down. Vacant 
it stared, voicing as no lips could speak her eloquent 
purpose and her mighty passion. 



But now it behooves reader and writer to catch up 
with the progress of the national tragedy during the 
eventful and exciting years covered by the term of 
Sumner's disability. This, however, must be done, 
not at the end of the present chapter, but at the 
beginning of the next. 



A truly momentous year was 1856, in the political 
annals of the Union. The strife between freedom 
and slavery was raging the while in Kansas, and at 
the seat of the Federal Government at Washington, 
where it culminated in the assault on Sumner. It is 
memorable also as marking the last triumph at the 
polls of the slave-power in America, and the first 
appearance of the new Northern party in national 
politics. This year the Republican party made its 
debut on the national stage, and swept the free States 
with the magnificent courtesy of more than one and 
one-third million of votes. 

If the :iew party of freedom failed to elect its can- 
didates, Fremont and Dayton, neither did the old 
party of slavery succeed in securing for its candi- 
dates, Buchanan and Breckinridge, a majority of the 
polls, by something like nearly four hundred thous- 
and votes ! The long primacy of the South, and the 
overlordship of the slave-power in the Union, drew, 
almost visibly, after this Pyrrhic victory, to their vio- 
lent and tremendous downfall. 

Seeing how matters must conclude for it and its 
ill-gotten gains, should the excitement, growing out 
of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, continue 
in the North, with no abatement of its energy, the 



slave-power hit upon a bold, bad, and desperate de- 
vice to compose it. This was no other than the 
famous or infamous judgment of the Supreme Court 
in the case of Dred Scott, which declared the uncon- 
stitutionality of the Missouri Compromise. If that 
Act was ab initio null and void, it followed plainly 
enough that its repeal could not have worked any 
legal detriment to the interests of the free States in 
the upper division of the Louisiana Territory. If they 
had nothing under the arrangement of 1820, and the 
Act of 1854 took that nothing away from them, what 
great consequence had they suffered because of this 
sort of Congressional addition and subtraction ? 

But the North was not deceived by the solemn and 
partisan jugglery of the majority of the Judges on the 
Supreme Bench upon the subject. Its moral sense 
was besides shocked by the bold inhumanities of the 
decision, directed against the negro race. For deep 
within the Northern heart, buried, to be sure, within 
labyrinthine selfishness and pride, there was an idea, 
a feeling, that the black man did have rights which 
white men were bound to respect, the obiter dicta of 
the Supreme Court to the contrary notwithstanding. 
The suspicion, too, that the highest judicature of the 
land, one of the coordinate branches of the national 
Government, had only acted a part assigned it by the 
slave-power, served to add fuel to the flames of the 
agitation, which the authoritative voice of that tribu- 
nal was evoked to allay. And so, after all this shrewd 
calculation, the anti-Nebraska excitement was not 
composed; it went rapidly, in fact, from bad to 

The prohibitory legislation of 1820, torn from the 


statute book by the slave-power, was not blotted at 
the same time from the breasts of Northern freemen. 
Congress and the Supreme Court had not power to 
erase the great fiat of liberty written there. The 
unconquerable temper, with which free Kansas rose 
with the emergency, with which it encountered the 
aggressions and outrages of the army of slavery, 
backed as that army was by the whole authority of 
the national executive, proved the folly and futility 
of the repeal ; proved also the folly and futility of 
the " squatter sovereignty " dogma as an instrument 
for introducing slavery into the Territories. When 
the slave-leaders perceived that this much-vaunted 
dogma was unequal to the introduction of slavery 
into the Territories, it was promptly discarded by 
them, and another, better adapted to the accomplish- 
ment of their purpose, selected in its stead. 

That other was Calhoun's supreme dogma of the 
" self-extension of slavery under the Constitution," 
as Benton phrased it, together with its corollary, the 
obligation of Congress to protect by law the slave- 
holder in the enjoyment of his Constitutional right to 
slave labor, against a hostile Territorial majority. 
Theretofore the Southern shibboleth had been : Con- 
gress has no power to legislate on the subject of 
slavery in the Territories; now it became the duty of 
Congress to safeguard the institution within the Ter- 
ritories. Not until a Territory had attained to State- 
hood, according to this latest position of the South, 
could the principle of popular sovereignty operate to 
exclude a master and his slaves. 

Stephen A. Douglas was altogether too great and 
selfish a politician to enact the role of a mere tool. 



If he consented to serve the slave-power, it was 
doubtless, because he calculated that he could serve 
self at the same time, could advance designs of his 
upon the Presidency. He knew that his popular- 
sovereignty doctrine measured the full length of his 
political tether. Not an inch beyond the principle 
set up by him in 1854, in solution of the Territorial 
problem, did he dare to venture. To shift his posi- 
tion taken then to this last and desperate pretension 
of the South would be passing, politically, upon 
himself a death sentence. And Douglas was not of 
the self-renouncing kind. He loved power too greed- 
ily to imperil his leadership at the North even to 
please the slave-power. 

The " little giant " drew defiantly and proudly off 
from his Southern allies on the Lecompton issue. 
On that issue the erstwhile united and invincible 
Democratic party ran sharply upon a question which 
was to shake it to its centre and eventually split it 
in two. In this posture of affairs between Douglas 
and fellow-Democrats at the South an old prophecy 
of Calhoun found fulfillment. For Northern repre- 
sentatives, even so audacious and powerful a public 
man as was Douglas, were, when they came to act, 
looking not to the South, but to the North for their 
political cue. 

Douglas, puissant as he undoubtedly was in Illinois, 
dared not to bow before the imperious will of the 
slave-power at this juncture. Willing or unwilling 
he had to move with the currents of public opinion 
in his own State. Indeed he owed his reelection to 
the Senate over Lincoln, a few months later, to his 
courageous and uncompromising tone in the Lecomp- 



ton debate. The wrath of the South burned hotly 
against its old confederate in aggression and wrong. 
In obedience to its behest, he was deposed from the 
Chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Territor- 
ies, and stood, it was bruited, in some danger of being 
read out of the Democratic party. 

Events were plainly getting beyond the control of 
the politicians, escaping as from Pandora's box on 
every hand, to the confusion and discomfiture of the 
compromisers at the North, and of those at the South. 
It was an instance of the irrepressible fermentation 
of contrary ideas, working from within outwardly in 
obedience to rooted social differences and antago- 
nisms between the sections. The South was the vic- 
tim of a system of labor, which early withdrew from 
it the power of choice and then drove it forward 
blindly by the force of an inexorable necessity upon 
its fate. The North was likewise the creature of an 
industrial principle, whose resultant interests and 
institutions slowly took away from it the power of 
self-determination in its conflicts with slave-labor, 
and impelled it in a line of social expansion as dis- 
tinct from that of the South as is light from dark- 
ness, civilization from barbarism. 

Never to any wide extent were the free States 
Abolitionist. They opposed slavery so far only as 
slavery menaced their interests, and no further. 
They loved the Union; they had no love for the slave. 
To preserve the one they were ever disposed to sac- 
rifice the freedom of the other. But happily for the 
slave, his freedom could not be immolated utterly on 
the altar of the Union, without entailing upon his 
immolators, to a certain extent, a loss of political 



power, and this possible consequence to themselves 
served to withhold the Northern people from aban- 
doning him entirely to his wretched fate. 

From the first, therefore, the passion of the free 
States for sectional ascendency pushed them gradu- 
ally away from the South and toward the slave. As 
the contest for political supremacy waxed between 
the sections, the line of separation lengthened 
between the North and the South, and lessened 
between the North and the slave, until in due time 
liberty and the Union grew to be one and insepar- 
able. But this converging of the sectional interests 
of the free States and of freedom to the slave upon a 
single point, was a long and tumultuous process, as 
the reader well knows. 

The thing which the South demanded, the North 
could not yield; and that which the North asked for, 
the South could not grant. The South demanded 
more slave territory, more slave States, while the 
North was compelled in self-defense to resist all fur- 
ther extension of slavery to the soil of the Republic, 
and to oppose the admission of more slave States into 
the Union. Certainly the two sections were not fed 
with the same food, for what might be meat to the 
one, was apt to prove poison to the other. A start- 
ling episode like John Brown and Harper's Ferry 
was the flashlight by which destiny revealed to 
themselves and to each other, the hearts of those 
natural and irrepressible enemies. 

In these circumstances, it did not take that wise man, 
Abraham Lincoln, long to discover for the Northern 
people that their Union could not endure " perma- 
nently half slave and half free." The discovery of 


that momentous fact had been made by seventy years 
of experiment and conflict. This truth, during 
that long period, had deepened and spread at the 
South ; it had deepened and spread at the North, 
more slowly to be sure, but with not less certainty or 
constancy than in the other half of the country. The 
logic of Southern aggression tended to make the 
Union all slave, that of Northern resistance to make 
it all free. 

The sectionalism of the Douglas wing of the Demo- 
cratic party, differed in degree only from the sec- 
tionalism of the Republican party. Neither would 
go the whole length of Southern demand. Both 
went part way, the latter stopping in this respect 
considerably short of the former. But the same force 
which arrested the one halted the other also. That 
force was the growing consciousness of the people of 
the free States of deep and abiding differences and 
antagonisms between the interests and institutions 
of their section and those of the slave States. 

But to fail the South, at this juncture, in one par- 
ticular was to fail it altogether. So at least reasoned 
her leaders. To throw her back, with her inferior 
colonizing resources, upon the dogma of popular 
sovereignty as an instrument for opening new regions 
for the extension of slavery, was not the deed of a 
friend, but of a foe. Douglas, therefore, and his fac- 
tion, the South, grew to hate with a bitterness hardly 
less than that with which it hated Lincoln and his 
party. Both were denounced as enemies which no 
Southern man, true to his section, could support. 

In the Charleston Convention the two wings of the 
Democratic party collided in a contest of unbridled 



passion. The South demanded as a sine qua non to 
any further union between the party North and the 
party South, the incorporation into the party plat- 
form of the dogma that slavery extends itself under 
the Constitution to the national Territories ; together 
with its corollary that Congress is bound to safeguard 
by law the human property of slaveholders within 
the Territories, popular sovereignty to the contrary 
notwithstanding. But an act of such self-stultifica- 
tion and madness, the Douglas men dared not com- 
mit. Their refusal to place the party upon this South- 
ern plank was the signal for the disruption of the 
Democratic organization which was speedily followed 
by the dissolution of the Union. 

But it is time to return to the story of Sumner's 
life. He had not resumed his seat in the Senate 
many months, before his collisions with its slavemas- 
ters began anew. One of the earliest of these skir- 
mishes he had with Mason, of Virginia, over a memo- 
rial from Mr. Frank B. Sanborn, of Concord, Mass., 
representing to the Senate how he had been treated 
by certain persons acting under orders from one of 
its special committees. Mr. Sanborn's case grew out 
of John Brown's raid into Virginia, and an attempt 
on the part of the Senate Committee, appointed to 
investigate the matter, to compel him to testify touch- 
ing his knowledge of the expedition. As Mr. Sanborn 
was not disposed to go willingly to Washington, the 
sergeant-at-arms of the Senate deputed certain per- 
sons to take him into custody and convey him to the 
capital. This the deputies, on the evening of April 
3, i860, proceeded to do. They succeeded partially 
in the accomplishment of their purpose, viz., in get- 



ting Mr. Sanborn into their possession and slipping 
handcuffs upon him, and were about to slip him into 
a carriage, when, owing to the presence of mind and 
courage of a sister, the friendly succor of neighbors 
and the efficacy of the Habeas Corpus, they were 
finally foiled and forced to release their prisoner. 

These circumstances were recited to the Senate by 
Mr. Sumner who presented the memorial. Where- 
upon Mason, who was the Chairman of the Harper's 
Ferry Committee moved " that the memorial be re- 
jected." This brought Mr. Sumner to his feet with the 
remark : " The Senator moves . . . that the 
memorial be * rejected'; and he makes this unaccus- 
tomed motion with a view to establish a precedent 
in such a case. I feel it my duty to establish a prec- 
edent also in this case, by entering an open, unequiv- 
ocal protest against such an attempt. Sir, an ancient 
poet said of a judge in hell, that he punished first, 
and heard afterwards — castigatque auditque and 
permit me to say, the Senator from Virginia, on this 
occasion, takes a precedent from that court." Of 
course, Mr. Mason (who professed not to be used to 
such language within or without the Senate), was ter- 
ribly shocked by this sulphurous and burning allusion 
to his motion to reject the memorial of Mr. Sanborn. 

Sumner was not content with striking when struck, 
as in the instance just given, but he would take the 
initiative as well. And when this he did, the slave- 
power had occasion to think of him with emotion for 
many a day afterward. His long disability and ab- 
sence from his post had not abated a tittle of his hatred 
of slavery, or of its domination in the Union. That 
hatred and the Puritanical sternness and aggressive- 


ness which characterized his opposition to the slave- 
power had, if anything, increased during those years 
of illness. In public life there was no man who so 
hated slavery as did Sumner. Certainly not Seward, 
nor Chase, nor Hale, nor Wilson, nor even Giddings. 
Sumner's hatred of it, as a political evil, surpassed 
theirs, while to this unequaled hostility was added 
an intolerance and abhorrence of it as a moral wrong, 
felt only by such men as Garrison, Phillips, Theodore 
D. Weld, James G. Birney, Elizur Wright, FYederick 
Douglass, Parker Pillsbury, and Stephen S. Foster. 
He was, in truth, in i860, the incarnation of iron will 
and iron convictions on the subject of slavery, politi- 
cal and moral. 

All this appears in that grand and terrible philip- 
pic, entitled " The Barbarism of Slavery," delivered 
by him in the Senate June 4, i860. In this speech, 
which was made on the bill for the admission of 
Kansas as a free State, Sumner condensed the whole 
horror and curse of slavery, reflected its image with 
a fierce realism and scorn, which was worthy of Gar- 
rison himself. 

In the early years of the Republic it was general, 
almost universal, in the slave States to look upon 
slavery as a political evil and a moral wrong. Slave- 
masters were among the loudest and sincerest in de- 
nunciation of it as such. They were among the most 
earnest of the early Abolitionists, who hoped for its 
ultimate extinction. But, owing to several causes of 
a political-economic nature, discussed by the writer 
in his " Life of William Lloyd Garrison," under the 
caption, " The Hour and the Man," chapter IV., page 
92, and to which he begs to refer the interested reader, 



this early expectation in regard to slavery failed to be 
realized. The evil on the contrary entered upon a 
period of extraordinary social and political expansion 
and power. And with this change there was inaugu- 
rated another. The early toleration of the South 
gave place in time to passionate attachment to the 
monster. It became no longer an evil, a wrong to be 
extirpated, but " a positive good " to be cherished, as 
Calhoun proclaimed it on the floor of the Senate in 

Presently devotion to slavery grew to be general 
through the South. In i860, when Sumner made his 
speech on the " Barbarism of Slavery," it was practi- 
cally universal. The slave States no more blushed for 
their social system, but by the mouths of their leaders 
vaunted it rather as " the most solid and durable 
foundation on which to rear free and stable political 
institutions "; as "the corner-stone of our republican 
edifice " ; as " a great moral, social, and political 
blessing"; as " the normal condition of human so- 
ciety " ; as " ennobling to both races, the white and 
the black," etc., etc., etc. 

Sumner's speech was in part an elaborate and 
merciless exposure of the groundlessness of these 
assumptions. He exposed the barbarism of slavery 
under the two heads of the character of slavery and of 
the character of slavemasters. In the preparation of 
his argument, Sumner had evidently acquainted 
himself with the entire body of the laws and the 
literature bearing on the subject. He came with 
chapter, section, and page of the black book of 
slavery at his finger's end. The whole awful record 
he unrolled during the four hours that he held the 



attention of the Senate. The enormities of the slave- 
code and the enormities of the slave-character filed 
in a long and terrific procession before the Senate 
and the country. Slavemasters were made to see 
themselves and the dehumanizing monster which 
they were hugging, as they appeared to the moral 
sense of the age. 

His exhibition of the character of slavemasters in 
Congressional history was as pungent, effective, and 
thorough as truth and the arts of the orator could 
make it. With the Congressional Globe in one hand, 
he drew aside with the other the curtain of years, a 
curtain which concealed a series of shameful and tur- 
bulent scenes, such as have rarely disgraced the annals 
of parliamentary proceedings. Just as the records had 
caught the " lords of the lash," pictures of vulgarity 
and violence, they were reproduced with their swagger, 
their insolence, and oaths, with their bowie-knives, 
their bludgeons, and firearms, defiant of the laws of 
debate, of decency, and of the Deity alike. And this 
stern exposure he fitly closed with a view of " the 
melancholy unconsciousness which constitutes one of 
the distinctive features of this barbarism." 

" Next to the unconsciousness of childhood," ob- 
served the orator, u is the unconsciousness of barbar- 
ism. The real barbarian is unconscious as an infant; 
and the slavemaster shows much of the same char- 
acter. No New Zealander exults in his tattoo, no 
savage of the Northwest coast exults in his flat head 
more than the slavemaster of these latter days 
— always, of course, with honorable exceptions — 
exults in his unfortunate condition. The slave- 
master hugs his disgusting practice as the Carib of the 



Gulf hugged cannibalism, and Brigham Young now 
hugs polygamy. The delusion of the Goitre is 
repeated. This prodigious swelling of the neck, 
nothing less than a loathsome wallet of flesh 
pendulous upon the breast, and sometimes so 
enormous, that the victim is unable to support the 
burden, crawls along the ground, is common to the 
population on the slopes of the Alps ; but accustomed 
to this deformity the sufferer comes to regard it 
with pride — as the slavemasters with us, unable to 
support their burden, and crawling along the 
ground, regard slavery — and it is said that those who 
have no swelling are laughed at and called " goose- 

If the speech four years before aroused all the 
dark and malignant passions of the South against 
him, this one could do no less, for while it did not 
single out by name particular representatives of slavery 
for punishment, as did the former, its general scope 
and overwhelming effect carried its argument and 
the charge of colossal guilt and iniquity home to the 
individual consciousness of each as well as all. He 
had attacked the whole, he had attacked every mother's 
son of the slave oligarchy. The slavemasters of the 
Senate and House were, metaphorically and literally, 
ready, during the progression of the terrible philippic 
and at its conclusion, to tear the Defender of Humanity 
to pieces. 

A newspaper writer sketched at the time the scenes 
in the chamber during the delivery of the speech: 
"Mr. Breckinridge remained all the time," wrote an 
occasional correspondent of the Chautauqua Demo- 
crat^ (l and sat with, an open bqo& in. his hands, pre- 



tending to read; but his eyes wandered from the 
page, and, with a frown upon his brow, he finally 
gazed at the speaker till he closed. Jeff. Davis pre- 
tended to be reading the Globe, but it was plain to be 
seen by the heading of the paper that it was upside- 
down. Wigfall seemed in torment. He listened re- 
spectfully awhile, and then glided silently around 
from one Senator to another, and conferred in whis- 
per. He seemed to be hatching mischief; but the 
grave shake of the head of the older Senators doubt- 
less kept this uneasy, restless desperado quiet. Hunter 
sat like a rock, immovable, and listened respectfully 
to the whole. Not a muscle moved upon his placid 
face to denote what was going on in his mind. 
Toombs heard the most of it quietly, and with as 
much of a don't-care look as his evil passions would 
permit. Near the close, * Sheep's-Gray ' Mason came 
in and took his seat, and commenced writing a letter. 
He evidently intended to show the galleries that 
Sumner was too small for him to notice. But he 
soon found a seat in a distant part of the hall, and an 
easy position, where he sat gloomily scowling upon 
the orator till he sat down. When the speech was 
about half through, Keitt, the accomplice of Brooks 
in his attempted assassination of Mr. Sumner, came 
in and took a seat near Senator Hammond. For 
awhile he sat gazing about the galleries, evidently to 
notice the dramatic effect of his presence upon the 
audience there. But few seemed to notice him. By 
degrees he began to pay attention to the speech. 
. . . Curry, of Alabama, and Lamar, of Missis- 
sippi, members of the other House, though South- 
erners of the straitest sect, could not conceal their 



delight at the oratory and classic and scholarly feast 
before them. They were scholars and orators them- 
selves, and could appreciate an intellectual treat, 
though the sentiments were so obnoxious. 

" On the Republican side breathless attention pre- 
vailed. Those who immediately surrounded the 
Senator were, Mr. Wilson, Senator Bingham, John 
Hickman, Preston King, and Solomon Foot. Mr. 
Seward sat in his usual seat, and scarcely moved 
during the delivery of the great speech." 

By the time Sumner had finished speaking, the 
slavemasters of the Senate had hit upon an answer, 
and this Mr. Chestnut, of South Carolina, was selected 
to make. And this was the answer: " Mr. President — 
After the extraordinary, though characteristic, speech 
just uttered in the Senate, it is proper that I assign 
the reason for the position we are now inclined to as- 
sume. After ranging over Europe, crawling through 
the back door to whine at the feet of British aristoc- 
racy, craving pity, and reaping a rich harvest of 
contempt, the slanderer of States and men reappears 
in the Senate. We had hoped to be relieved from 
the outpouring of such vulgar malice. We had hoped 
that one who had felt, though ignominiously he 
failed to meet, the consequences of a former inso- 
lence would have become wiser, if not better by ex- 
perience. In this I am disappointed, and I regret it. 
Mr. President, in the heroic ages of the world men 
were deified for the possession and the exercise of 
some virtues — wisdom, truth, justice, magnanimity, 
courage. In Egypt, also, we know they deified beasts 
and reptiles; but even that bestial people worshiped 
their idols on account of some supposed virtue. It 



has been left for this day, for this country, for the 
Abolitionists of Massachusetts, to deify the incarnation 
of malice, mendacity, and cowardice. Sir, we do not in- 
tend to be guilty of aiding in the apotheosis of pusil- 
lanimity and meanness. We do not intend to con- 
tribute, by any conduct on our part, to increase the 
devotees at the shrine of this new idol. We know 
what is expected and what is desired. We are not 
inclined again to send forth the recipient of Punishment 
howling through the world, yelping fresh cries of slander 
and malice. These are the reasons, which I feel it due 
to myself and others to give to the Senate and the 
country, why we have quietly listened to what has 
been said, and why we can take no other notice of 
the matter." 

To this characteristic Southern answer Mr. Sum- 
ner, gaining the floor with difficulty, replied briefly 
thus, addressing the President: " Only one word. 
I exposed to-day the Barbarism of Slavery. What the 
Senator has said in reply I may well print as an ad- 
ditional illustration. That is all." 

Mr. Chestnut's wrathful little performance was 
charged to the muzzle with explosives, with savage 
and intolerable hate. It was the typical Southern 
answer to anti-slavery arguments, with the blud- 
geon and the bowie-knife left out. But, if they were 
left out, it was for the occasion only, as an incident 
which occurred on the fourth day after the speech 
evinced. About six o'clock in the afternoon of that 
day, Mr. Sumner was called on by a stranger, who 
introduced himself as a Southerner and slaveholder, 
and demanded of the " slanderer of States and men," 
an explanation of his speech, and avowed his inten- 


tion to hold him responsible therefor. But the De- 
fender of Humanity, though an ardent peace man, 
who eschewed war and the duel and all appeals to 
force for the settlement of differences between nation 
and nation and man and man, as unworthy of a Chris- 
tian age, nevertheless, believed with no less ardor in 
the right and the duty of self-defense when put to it 
by bullies and assassins. He therefore ordered the 
ruffian to leave the room, which he did, but not before 
breathing out vengeance against the author of " The 
Barbarism of Slavery," and threatening to return 
with three others who had come with him from Vir- 
ginia expressly to hold the orator responsible. 

After having this notice of intended violence served 
upon him, Mr. Sumner sent for his colleague, Henry 
Wilson, who promptly repaired to the lodgings of his 
friend. And while there, a second unknown man 
called to see Sumner, but when he was apprised that 
the object of his call was not alone, he suspiciously 
declined to enter. A few hours later three strange 
men called, but when they were informed that they 
could not see the Massachusetts Senator alone, they, 
too, turned away with the sanguinary message that 
they would call again in the morning for a private in- 
terview, and if they did not get it they would cut his 
blanked throat before the next night. 

Such a murderous message was not ignored by the 
friends of Mr. Sumner; on the contrary, Anson Bur- 
lingame and John Sherman slept that night in a room 
opening into the bedroom of their friend, prepared to 
teach Southern fire-eaters that if blood was to be 
spilt, Northern men proposed to be on hand at the 
next spilling appointment, and join in the operation. 



Nothing, however, came of the matter. The bloody- 
minded visitors failed to repeat their call, either that 
night or the next morning. 

The noise of the incident reaching the ears of the 
Mayor of Washington, that official requested Mr. 
Sumner to make an affidavit of the facts, but this, 
owing to a want of faith in the magistrates of that 
city, he declined to do. The original offender, a well- 
known office-holder of Virginia, was at length dis- 
covered, and brought to Mr. Sumner's room by the 
Mayor. The fellow apologized for the part he had 
taken in the affair, but denied all knowledge of the 
others who had left the sanguinary message. With- 
out Sumner's being aware of it at the time, faithful 
friends stood watch over him at night, and attended 
him as a body-guard between his lodgings and the 
Senate. This latter service was performed by Kan- 
sas citizens under the command of Augustus Wattles. 
From the door of the house to the door of the Senate 
and vice versa, all unknown to the object of their 
solicitude, these determined men followed him day 
after day, with revolvers in hand. 

The speech had other results. Coming as it did 
about the beginning of the Presidential campaign, it 
produced a sensation among the army of politicians 
and editors, who attach higher value to party suc- 
cess than to everlasting principles. Many there were 
among this always too-numerous class, and who per- 
haps, have never been more so than during the period 
of the national canvass of i860, regretted the delivery 
of the speech, and bewailed the fancied harm it would 
inflict upon the Republican party in the contest. But 
as time passed and the contest waxed, the squad of 


croakers and compromisers, who were troubled and 
anxious about everything under the sun in the world 
of politics except freedom for the slave, learned that 
the speech had not injured the chances of their 
party's success, but had instead really improved 
them with the common people, began to sing an- 
other tune in regard to it and its brave and eloquent 

The speech was printed as a campaign document 
in several large editions, and sent broadcast over the 
free States, while the author was in urgent demand 
as a speaker throughout the North. In Massachu- 
setts he spoke many times during the canvass, and in 
New York once, when he made a powerful speech 
on " The Origin, Necessity, and Permanence of the 
Republican Party," in which he restated the argu- 
ment against slavery, but with this single exception, 
possibly from fear of a relapse he did not speak out 
of his own State, though again and again importuned 
to do so by Republican committees from Maine to 

The alarmists and loud-mouthed " friends of the 
Union" converted "The Barbarism of Slavery" to 
their own mischievous purposes. In it they professed 
to descry the real, but concealed character and aims 
of the Republican party, the Black Republican party, 
as it was called, to make it odious with the people of 
the free States. The dissolution of the dear Union in 
the event of the triumph of that party at the then 
approaching elections was held up to frighten the 
North into a refusal to support the Republican candi- 
dates. A vote for Lincoln was, in sooth, a vote for 
disunion, and to Sumner's speech the alarmists 



pointed for confirmation of that gloomy vaticina- 

Here is one way in which the New York Herald, 
taking the speech for a text, artfully held up the ter- 
rible consequences to the country of Republican suc- 
cess: "But there is one characteristic of this speech 
which is in perfect accordance with the policy of the 
Black Republican party in the present campaign. 
The bloody and terrible results which must ensue, if 
that party succeeds in getting possession of the Fed- 
eral Government, are kept carefully out of view. 
John Brown's practice is taught, but there is no word 
of John Brown. The social condition of fifteen popu- 
lous, rich, and powerful States is to be revolution- 
ized; but not a hint of possibility of resistance on 
their part, or of the reactive effect of such resistance 
upon the aggressive North, is dropped." 

Whoever else trimmed and tacked his principles 
and convictions to weather the gusty currents of the 
times, Sumner did not. No stress or fury of the 
political elements, no impending peril and disaster, 
could make him turn from his course and fly before 
the storm. Throughout the campaign which termi- 
nated in the election of Lincoln, he held his undevi- 
ating way toward the restoration of the Republic to 
its original anti-slavery character, when freedom was 
national and slavery sectional; to the emancipation 
of the Government from the domination of the slave- 
power, to the total annihilation of the idea, wherever 
the jurisdiction of the Constitution extended, whether 
in the Territories or the District of Columbia, or on 
the high seas under the national flag, that man can 
hold property in man. 



The uncompromising spirit which characterized his 
course before the elections, characterized it not less 
afterwards, when the anti-election alarmists doubled 
their activity and the apprehensions of the friends of 
the Union at the same time. In that period of dread- 
ful suspense, which intervened between Lincoln's 
election and the beginning of secession, it seemed 
almost as if the whole North was in a panic of fright, 
and ready to suggest or support any concession to 
the South, in order to save the Union. '* Give, give, 
give," was in the mouths of the most powerful poli- 
ticians and leaders of the victorious party of freedom. 
Lincoln, Seward, Thurlow Weed, and company, were 
in the mood for making extraordinary concessions 
to the South, and sacrifices of the anti-slavery prin- 
ciples of their party to induce Jefferson Davis, How- 
ell Cobb, William L. Yancey, and company to re- 
frain from breaking up the precious Union and 
brotherhood of right and wrong, for which the Gov- 
ernment, as organized and administered, had stood 
for seventy years. At every door and on every brow 
sat gloom and apprehension. An appalling uncer- 
tainty was, indeed, scaring statesmen and people. 

But the thoughts and words of Sumner were not 
those of the terrified people and leaders. There was 
light on but one difficult and perilous path, the path 
of duty, of national righteousness. In this one true 
way he confidently planted his feet. Thick fogs 
were around him, a wild, chaotic sea of doubt and 
danger encircled him and the country, but he 
hesitated not, nor swerved to the right hand or to the 
left, to find an easier and safer way of escape. 
Straight on and up he climbed, calling through the 
2 1 



rising darkness and tumult to his groping country- 
men to follow. Nothing is settled which is not 
right. Peace, ever-enduring peace, comes only to 
that people who dare to put down sin, and lift up 
righteousness, rang firm and clear from him, in this 
tremendous crisis in the life of the nation. He was, 
in very truth then, the faithful one. 

He saw the supreme peril which impended over 
the Republic, and felt assured that it was not 
in secession and civil war, but in the timidity and 
selfishness, which, in order to avert these, were 
disposing the Northern people and their leaders 
to compromise the principles of liberty, inclin- 
ing then to make fresh and disastrous concessions 
to slavery. If his anxiety was great, his vigil- 
ance, earnestness, and activity rose to the high level 
demanded of him in the emergency. No uncertainty 
vexed his conscience, or disturbed his courage. 
Whatever questions admitted of conciliatory treat- 
ment, the slavery question admitted of no back- 
down on the part of the free States. Not another 
inch of concession should be made by them to the 
evil power which had devoured their peace and 
trodden down their best interests, and which no sur- 
render, short of absolute and unconditional, could 
permanently pacify. If disunion and civil war were 
crouching in the rough way of the nation's duty, the 
nation must not turn aside to avoid them. It ought, 
on the contrary, resolutely, regardless of conse- 
quences, to seek first to establish itself in justice and 
liberty. This bravely and finally done, he did not 
doubt that then every other good thing would be 
added to it. 



Seeing how matters were with people and politi- 
cians, and the temptations which were assailing them 
through their fears to betray liberty to her ancient 
foe, Sumner seized every opportunity which came to 
him to fix their wavering faith, to steady their falter- 
ing purpose, to bring the Government back to its 
earlier and better policy, when freedom and not 
slavery was national. His timely lecture on " Lafa- 
yette, The Faithful One," was among the potent 
instrumentalities employed by him in achieving this 
result. In exalting Lafayette, and unrolling the 
splendid record of his glorious life, where fidelity to 
liberty shone conspicuous and supreme, Sumner held 
up to the living this lofty historic personage for 
guidance and inspiration, and with the flame of the 
illustrious Frenchman's sacred and unconquerable 
animosity to slavery, the lecturer sought to kindle to 
a consuming blaze the flickering opposition of the 
North to the American barbarism and the long-en- 
during tyranny of the slave-power. 

As the term of Buchanan drew to its close, and 
that of Lincoln to its commencement, the apprehen- 
sions of the North increased apace, and the opera- 
tions of the alarmists increased apace also. The 
pressure put upon Congress to induce the adoption 
of conciliatory measures was redoubled. A Boston 
delegation of white-livered friends of the Union, with 
Edward Everett as its head, went to Washington to 
urge upon Northern representatives the necessity for 
mutual concessions in the interest of harmony and 
the preservation of the dear Union. Mr. Sumner has 
recorded how the timid old orator went to him at his 
lodgings, and with much emotion besought him to 

3 2 4 


bring forward some conciliatory proposition, saying, 
" You are the only person who can introduce such a 
proposition with a chance of success." And Sumner 
has recorded his reply also. You are mistaken in 
supposing that I have success with compromise," 
said he to the venerable time-server and trimmer, 
" if I could bring it forward ; if I am strong with the 
North, it is because of the conviction that I cannot 
compromise ; but the moment I compromised I, too, 
should be lost." 

Thrice happy it was that at this juncture Massa- 
chusetts had not an Edward Everett in the Senate, 
or seated in her gubernatorial chair. In her new 
governor the commonwealth found a tower of 
strength, while in him Sumner found a man after his 
own heart. Firm indeed was John A. Andrew against 
the clamor for compromise. In January, 1861, he 
wrote Sumner in Washington: " From war, pestilence, 
and famine, from all assaults of the world, the flesh, 
and the devil, good Lord, deliver us, but most 
especially from any compromise with traitors, or any 
bargain with slavery ! " 

With another time-server and trimmer Sumner 
had a characteristic interview about this time. This 
one was James Buchanan. He had sought an 
audience with the President in relation to a subject 
touching the state of the country. When the conver- 
sation was concluded on this head, Sumner said, 
<: Mr. President, what else can we do in Massachusetts 
for the good of the country ? " " Much," was the re- 
ply. " What ? " queried Sumner. " Adopt the Crit- 
tenden propositions," responded the Chief Magistrate. 
" Is that necessary ? " asked the Senator with a back- 



bone. " Yes," answered the President, who belonged 
unmistakably to the breed of political invertebrates. 
" Massachusetts has not yet spoken directly," was 
Sumner's answer ; " but I feel authorized to say that 
such are the unalterable convictions of her people, they 
would see their State sunk below the sea, and turned 
into a sand-bank, before they would adopt proposi- 
tions acknowledging property in men, and disfranchis- 
ing a portion of her population." 

Northern compromisers, among other reactionary 
measures, urged the repeal or modification of the 
Personal Liberty laws in conciliation of the South. 
There were attempts in Massachusetts to obtain the 
abrogation of the laws for the protection of fugitive 
slaves. To William Claflin, then Chairman of the 
Republican State Committee, and President of the 
Senate, Sumner wrote touching this subject : " In 
the name of liberty, I supplicate you not to let her 
(Massachusetts) take any backward step — not an inch, 
not a hair's breadth." And to Governor Andrew he 
closed one of his letters with words which betray an 
agony of anxiety lest Massachusetts should retreat 
from the high ground occupied by her before the elec- 
tions. " In God's name stand firm ! Don't cave, 
Andrew! " he wrote. " Save Massachusetts from any 
'surrender,' THE LEAST ! " 

Sumner's solicitude and activity at this crisis was 
a potent influence in strengthening many a weak 
back in the Legislature, and making the adoption 
of any material concession to slavery impossible. 
Governor Andrew's unflinching and uncompromising 
front stood watch over the Personal Liberty laws 
and warded off the evil machinations of the com- 



promisers. In February, 1861, he wrote Sumner how 
he had made known to "some persons that they 
could not get anything through this roo?n [the Council 
Chamber] not conformable to certain principles, and 
which did not contain certain details, unless they 
marched it through by dragoons." 

Sumner's letters to the Governor from January 17 
to February 20, 1861, are eloquent of the excitement 
and apprehensions of the times, of the author's firm- 
ness, vigilance, and fidelity in the great cause of 
country and humanity. Their sustaining power was 
of immense account to John A. Andrew in those early 
and critical weeks, beginning his term in the execu- 
tive chair of the State. " I do not think we should 
allow this opportunity to pass," Sumner wrote him, 
" without trying the question, whether a single State 
can break up the Union. What is it worth, if held 
by any such tenure?" And again: "The question 
must be met on the Constitution as it is and the facts 
as they are, or shall we hereafter hold our Govern- 
ment subject to this asserted right of secession. 
Should we yield now — and any offer is concession — 
every Presidential election will be conducted with 
menace of secession by the defeated party." South 
Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama had 
already seceded and raised the standard of rebellion. 
Before the end of the month of January, Georgia and 
Louisiana were to do likewise. On the 21st the 
Senators of the seceding States made their dramatic 
exit from the Senate. Treason and the plottings of 
traitors filled the air of the national capitol with 
rumors of impending violence. The panic of the 
compromisers, in consequence, grew every twenty- 



four hours in magnitude, and threatened to precipi- 
tate the free States into a dishonorable retreat. 

On the very day that Jefferson Davis and company 
withdrew from the Senate, Sumner wrote Governor 
Andrew: "Pray keep our beloved Commonwealth 
firm yet a little longer, and the crisis will be passed. 
Save her from surrender. Nothing she can do will 
stay secession. Impossible." And two days later : 
" Nothing that Massachusetts can do now can arrest 
one single State. There can be no other result 
except our own humiliation, and a bad example 
which will be felt by all other States. If Massachu- 
setts yields one hair's breadth, other States may yield 
an inch or a foot, a furlong or a mile." 

Again, a few days later, he wrote the Governor: 
" The mistake of many persons comes from this — 
they do not see that we are in the midst of a revo- 
lution, where reason is dethroned, and passion rules 
instead. If this were a mere party contest, then the 
circulation of speeches and a few resolutions might 
do good. But what are such things in a revolution ? 
As well attempt to hold a man-of-war in a tempest 
by a little anchor borrowed from Jamaica Pond; and 
this is what I told the Boston Committee with regard to 
their petition." " I have but one prayer: Stand firm, 
keep every safeguard of Human Rights on our statute- 
book, and save Massachusetts glorious and true." 

Rumors were now flying thick of plots to seize 
Washington by the rebels, to convert the depart- 
ments into rebel forts, etc. " More than the loss of 
forts," Sumner's correspondence with the Governor 
continues, " arsenals, or the national capital, / fear 
the loss of our principles. 



" These are now in greatest danger. Our Northern 
Fort Sumter will be surrendered, if you are not 
aroused. In my view, the vacillation of the Repub- 
licans is more fatal than that of Buchanan." And 
again thus: "Every word of concession thus far has 
done infinite mischief — first, by encouraging the 
slavemasters, and secondly, by demoralizing our 
friends, and filling them with doubt and distrust." 
And, finally, when the pressure of apprehensions began 
to lift from his mind, and light to break through the 
gloom: "The heart-burnings and divisions showing 
themselves in our party a few weeks ago are none less 
active. Those fatal overtures will fall to the ground. 
Oh, that they never had been made ! " Certain con- 
ciliatory propositions, contained in a speech by 
Seward in the Senate, and made to placate the South 
and " Save the Union," were undoubtedly the " fatal 
overtures," alluded to. Four days before Lincoln's 
future Secretary of State delivered the objectionable 
speech, he read it to Sumner, who pleaded in vain 
with him to omit the foolish and futile offers to the 
South which it contained. 

This period of appalling crisis and suspense, so 
crowded with miserable scenes of weak and vacillat- 
ing leaders, so full of wretched and bootless efforts 
and overtures to satisfy the slave-power, was abruptly 
terminated by the roar of cannon in Charleston 
Harbor. It was the Southern answer to the fatal 
overtures of the friends of the Union. The sort of 
response which the North would make to the chal- 
lenge was at once apparent in the tremendous popu- 
lar uprising which followed the bombardment of 
Sumter. The Union must and shall be preserved was 



the mighty purpose which swept the free States 
together, and launched them as one man against the 

Sumner, as was his wont, had lingered in Washing- 
ton after the close of Congress. He was in Wash- 
ington when President Lincoln issued his first call 
for troops. There he remained, busying himself 
attending to public duties appertaining to him as 
a Senator and patriot, until the afternoon of April 18th, 
when he left for the North. At Baltimore he got off 
the train and went to Barnum's Hotel, where he 
meant to put up for the night. That the city was in 
a state of unusual excitement he soon perceived. 
On his way from the hotel to the home of an old 
family friend, where he took tea and spent the eve- 
ning, he found that the excitement had increased. 
He himself was addressed in a manner not to be mis- 
taken. Returning that evening to the hotel he was 
met by an acquaintance who enlightened him as to the 
object of the excitement, which had risen during the 
evening to the dimensions of a great mob. He was 
informed that it was after him, that it had already been 
to the hotel in quest of him. 

Having learned so much, he pushed on to Barnum's 
and called for the key of his room, when he was taken 
into a retired spot by the proprietor and an attache 
of the hotel and put in possession of the facts of the 
case, and of the danger he was in personally, and in 
which the house was also from the mob should they 
return again during the night. But in all that city 
there was no place in which Sumner could take refuge 
other than the hotel, and as a traveler he insisted 
upon his rights under the circumstances, much as he 


regretted the peril which his presence in the house 
might involve the property of the proprietor. He 
was then given a room in a wing of the hotel less 
accessible to the mob should they attack the house 
during the night. The greatest secrecy was observed 
as to the number and location of the room occupied 
by Mr. Sumner, as an additional safeguard against 
the spirit of mischief which was abroad in the city 
that night, and which was to enact next day those 
scenes of riot, bloodshed, and treason which can 
never be forgotten. 

In the grey of the next morning Mr. Sumner left 
the hotel for the Philadelphia Depot, where he 
boarded the northward-bound train. Between the 
two cities his train passed that which was transport- 
ing the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment to the national 
capital. Before Sumner reached Philadelphia the 
tragedy of the 19th of April, 1861, had been begun 
and finished in the streets of Baltimore, and the first 
bloodshed of the war had passed into history. 

On his arrival in New York, he called on Major 
Charles Devens and his battalion, hurrying like the 
then glorious Sixth to the defense of the national 
capital. Sumner addressed the men, giving them for 
a watchward: "Massachusetts, the Constitution, and 
Freedom." The time for speech, however, had 
ended, and the time for doing and dying had come. 
And this no one recognized more quickly and 
heartily, peace advocate though he was, than 
Sumner. " Blood and iron," was the stern but simple 
formula for saving the Union. " Blood and iron," as 
a recipe for destroying slavery, he believed could 
prove no less potent. 



The two antagonistic ideas of the Union, after 
seventy years of expansion and conflict, had crashed 
together in the storm of civil war. Northern interests 
were not separable from the Union. To it, un- 
doubtedly, the free States owed their " unprecedented 
increase in population, their surprising development 
of material resources, and their rapid augmentation 
of wealth." Naturally enough, therefore, they held 
in abhorrence a Southern Confederacy. For destruc- 
tion of the Union carried, as a consequence, ruin to 
all this growth and prosperity. 

The war on the part of the free States was for the 
maintenance of the Union, and for no other purpose. 
Lincoln's indifference as to the fate of slavery, in this 
emergency of the Republic, was hardly less complete 
or shocking than was that of Douglas, who cared not 
whether slavery was voted up or voted down in the 
national Territories, since popular sovereignty was 
vindicated. Lincoln, as President, was not concerned 
as to whether slavery survived or perished, if only 
the Union survived. As a man he was probably 
not indifferent on this point ; but, as President, he 
avowedly meant slavery within the States, and in- 
trenched within the Constitution and the laws of the 
land, no harm from the war power of the Government 
over which he presided. He was openly, notoriously, 



for maintaining the Constitution as it was, the Union 
as it was, even to the execution of its infamous 
Fugitive Slave Laws. 

It took two years to reveal to the President and 
the Republican party the folly of such a purpose, the 
madness of a statesmanship which was pouring out 
blood and treasure to preserve the federation of two 
contrary social systems under a single general gov- 
ernment, when the opportunity offered of putting 
an end to one, and of establishing forever the other. 
At length it was perceived beyond a peradventure 
that the institution, which the administration was 
preserving, was the pith, the marrow, and backbone 
of the Rebellion. It, too, was seen that the fortunes 
of the slave and the fortunes of the Union were not 
detachable and distinct the one from the other, but 
identical and indissoluble. Then it was that the 
slave was emancipated and made a soldier to save a 
Union essential to the supremacy of Northern ideas 
and to the security of Northern interests and institu- 
tions in America. 

Sumner, during the ante-bellum period of crisis 
and suspense, recognized, with all his old-time 
clarity of vision, the constitutional limitations of the 
political movement against slavery. He did not 
propose to touch the evil within the States, because 
he had not the power. To the utmost verge of the 
Constitution he pushed his opposition. Here he 
drew up, ready to cross this Rubicon of the slave- 
power should justificatory cause arise. Such he 
considered was the uprising of the South in 
rebellion. Treason canceled the covenants of the 
Constitution, and discharged the North from their 



further observance. He was at last untrammeled 
by political conditions, free to carry the war into 
Africa. Cathago est delenda was thenceforth con- 
stantly on his lips. 

It is the vogue now to extol the marvelous sagac- 
ity of Abraham Lincoln. And the writer, too, 
will join in the panegyric of his great qualities. But 
in the matter of emancipation that wise man was not 
infallible, the opinion of his latest biographers to the 
contrary notwithstanding. He waited for the people, 
but the people were really ready for the act, as a war 
measure, before he was. When he issued the Eman- 
cipation Proclamation, the South but a little later 
began to weigh the military necessity of a similar 
movement. Sagacious, undoubtedly, the President 
was, — wonderfully so; but slow at times, also, to a 
surprising degree. And this was true with regard to 
his conduct in relation to the liberation of the slaves. 

To have saved the Union with slavery was surely 
not such a preservation of it as mere worldly prudence 
ought to have dictated. All that it could possibly 
have accomplished was a short postponement of the 
final struggle for mastery between what was morally 
and industrially wrong, and what was morally and in- 
dustrially right, in the Republic. A day of wrath 
this struggle would have been in 1900 as it was in 
1861. To put off this day, then, would have consum- 
mated the most stupendous crime of fathers against 
children of modern times. Yet such was distinctly 
Mr. Lincoln's purpose, as President. It certainly 
was not Mr. Sumner's, as Senator. Justice was his 
solitary expedient, right his unfailing sagacity. Of 
no other American statesman can this be so un- 



qualifiedly asserted. Here he is the transcendent 
figure in our political history. 

And yet he was no fanatical visionary, Utopian 
dreamer, but a practical moralist in the domain of 
politics. When President and party refused to heed 
him, and turned from his simple and straightforward 
remedy to try others, he did not break with them, 
nor sulk at his post. On the contrary, foot to 
foot, and shoulder to shoulder, he pulled with both 
as far as they would go. Where they halted he 
could not. Stuck, as the wheels of State and of the 
war were in those dreadful years, in the mire of 
political expediency and pro-slavery hunkerism, he 
appealed confidently to that large, unknown quantity 
of courage and righteousness latent in the North, to 
set the balked wheels again moving. 

The policy of forbearance toward slavery, which 
characterized to so remarkable an extent the early 
part of Mr. Lincoln's administration, was at first in- 
terpreted liberally by Mr. Sumner. The President 
seemed to be making haste slowly to attack the 
enemy at a vital point, which course, during the first 
months of the war, Sumner cordially approved. And 
this approval he communicated to Mr. Lincoln in the 
month of May preceding the battle of Bull Run, 
adding, however, that the President "must be ready 
to strike when the moment came." Upon the hap- 
pening of that event, Sumner felt that the time had 
arrived for the adoption of a Presidential policy of 
active hostility toward the peculiar institution; and 
this conviction he imparted to the President two 
days after the Bull Run disaster. But Mr. Lincoln 
received the suggestion with undisguised impatience. 



No, the moment had not come to strike slavery. In- 
stead of striking slavery, the administration struck 
several thumping blows upon the backs of the slaves 
in its jealous regard for the rights of masters. 

" Fugitive slaves," so ran a general order from 
Washington, July 17th; "Fugitive slaves will under 
no pretext whatever be permitted to reside, or in 
any way be harbored, in the quarters and camps of 
the troops serving in this department. Neither will 
such slaves be allowed to accompany troops on the 
march. Commanders of troops will be held respons- 
ible for a strict observance of this order." Six days 
afterward the administration, through Attorney-Gen- 
eral Bates, reminded the United States marshals of 
Missouri that the Fugitive Slave Act must be exe- 
cuted ! And to General Butler's famous suggestion, 
that the " able-bodied negroes," liable to be used in 
aid of rebellion, were contraband of war, the Secretary 
of War, Simon Cameron, replied, in August, that, " It 
is the desire of the President, that all existing rights 
in all the States be fully respected and maintained." 

August 30th, General Fremont, commanding the 
Western Department, made proclamation that: "The 
property, real and personal, of all persons in the 
State of Missouri, who shall take up arms against the 
United States, or who shall be directly proven to 
have taken an active part with their enemies in the 
field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use, 
and their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared 
freemen." Notwithstanding the outburst of popular 
satisfaction with which this last clause of the order 
was received, President Lincoln promptly counter 
manded it. He was plainly bent on saving the Union, 

33 6 


if he could, without in any manner disturbing the 
status quo of invested interests in the slave States. 

This amazing conservatism was unspeakably pain- 
ful to Sumner, and excited his keenest apprehensions 
in respect of its demoralizing consequences in the 
conduct of the war. It was injurious to the cause of 
the Union at home and abroad. It operated in the 
South to strengthen, not weaken, the spirit of rebel- 
lion. Sumner, unable to influence the President, 
turned to the people. Perhaps they could show the 
administration the error of its way, induce it to 
change its policy of forbearance to bold and active 
anti-slavery measures. As early as July he endeav- 
ored to get Congress to inaugurate a new and mili- 
tant policy in the treatment of rebels. Two bills 
introduced by him into the Senate, prior to the bat- 
tle of Bull Run, provided for the confiscation of the 
property of traitors. This was one way, certainly, of 
starting off on a new departure in the conduct of the 

At the Republican State Convention of Massachu- 
setts, which met at Worcester, October i, 1861, he 
demonstrated in an electric speech, that emancipa- 
tion was the best weapon for putting down the Rebel- 
lion and saving the Union. " It is not necessary 
even, borrowing a familiar phrase," he declared, with 
singular sagacity, " to carry the war into Africa. It 
will be enough if we carry Africa into the war in any 
form, any quantity, any way. The moment this is 
done, Rebellion will begin its bad luck, and the Union 
become secure forever." Facts, a year later, com- 
pletely verified this bold prediction. 

On the evening of November 27th, before the 



Young Men's Republican Union of New York, at 
Cooper Institute, he pointed out, in an argument of 
masterly force, that slavery was the origin and 
mainspring of the Rebellion: " Wherever this Rebel- 
lion shows itself, whatever form it takes, whatever 
thing it does, whatever it meditates," exclaimed the 
orator, 4< it is moved by slavery ; nay, the Rebellion 
is slavery itself, incarnate, living, acting, raging, rob- 
bing, murdering, according to the essential law of 
its being." And again: " The slaves toil at home, 
while the masters work at rebellion ; and thus, by 
singular fatality, is this doomed race, without taking 
up arms, actually engaged in feeding, supporting, 
succoring, invigorating those battling for their 
enslavement. Full well I know that this is an ele- 
ment of strength only through the forbearance of our 
own Government." . . . 

And coming to the point of the argument, he finds 
that something more is needed to encounter success- 
fully the Rebellion than men and money. That 
decisive something which the war for the Union 
wanted was ideas. " Our battalions must be rein- 
forced by ideas," he sums up, " and we must strike 
directly at the origin and mainspring. I do not say 
now in what way or to what extent, but only that we 
must strike. ... In no way can we do so much 
at so little cost. To the enemy such a blow will be 
a terror, to good men it will be an encouragement, 
and to foreign nations watching this contest it will 
be an earnest of something beyond a mere carnival 
of battle. There has been the cry, ' On to Rich- 
mond! ' and still another worse cry, ' On to England!' 
Better than either is the cry, ' On to Freedom! ' Let 



this be heard in the voices of our soldiers, ay, let it 
resound in the purposes of the Government, and vic- 
tory must be near." 

No opportunity did Sumner now miss to press 
upon President, Congress, and the country the duty 
and necessity of emancipation. From this time for- 
ward he never saw Mr. Lincoln without urging him 
to strike the great criminal without warning him 
that then was the accepted time for dispatching the 
monster. But Mr. Lincoln did not so apprehend the 
situation, nor the urgency of immediate action. He 
would wait yet a while longer. He was, according 
to his own calculation, but six weeks behind Sumner. 
The weeks, however, stretched into months, and still 
the Presidential arm was stayed. 

In the meantime, Congress was not inactive. It 
took the initiative in the military movement against 
slavery, as the origin and mainspring of the Rebel- 
lion. In the measure to confiscate property used for 
insurrectionary purposes, slaves so employed were 
declared free by the Act, which, on its approval by 
the President, August 6, 1861, was the beginning of 
emancipation. This Act was followed in March, 1862, 
by another, which prohibited the employment of the 
national forces in the return of fugitive slaves. It 
was thus, largely through the earnestness and deter- 
mination of Sumner, that a path was hewed for the 
feet of Mr. Lincoln to emancipation as a measure of 
military necessity. 

When the slavemasters retired from the Senate, 
and the Republican party obtained control of that 
body, Mr. Sumner was placed at the head of the 
Committee on Foreign Relations. In this position 



he was enabled to render inestimable services to the 
country, and to the cause of freedom as well. His 
extensive acquaintance in Europe, and his immense 
acquisitions as a student of history and of interna- 
tional law made him a power, at home and abroad, 
during the progress of the war, as Chairman of that 
Committee. His speech on the " Trent " episode was 
one of the greatest services rendered by him to the 
administration and the country in that capacity. 

Two of Sumner's old enemies, James M. Mason, 
the former Chairman of the Committee on Foreign 
Relations, and John Slidell of Louisiana, were ap- 
pointed to represent the rebel States, the former at 
the Court of St. James, and the latter at the Court of 
Napoleon III. In October, 1861, with their two sec- 
retaries they eluded the blockade at Charleston and 
were landed at Havana. From this place they took 
passage in the British mail packet " Trent " for St. 
Thomas, where a line of steamers connecting with the 
" Trent " ran to England. When near St. Thomas the 
" Trent " was stopped by the United States steamer 
"San Jacinto," commanded by Captain Wilkes, and 
the rebel commissioners and their two secretaries 
were taken into custody and removed to the national 
steamer. This proceeding of Captain Wilkes, though 
in strict accord with British precedent, was in viola- 
tion of the principle in that regard uniformly con- 
tended for by America. But this latter fact was at 
first quite lost sight of by the statesmen and diplo- 
matic scholars and lawyers of the land. The capture 
gave general satisfaction in the United States — made 
Captain Wilkes the hero of the hour. 

In England, however, the act excited very different 



emotions. It brought the hostility of that country 
toward the United States to a head. The English 
Government demanded the surrender of the traitors, 
and, in case of the refusal of the American Govern- 
ment to comply therewith, instructed its minister at 
Washington, Lord Lyons, to return to London with 
the entire legation. Pending the consideration of 
this demand by the administration, Great Britain, like 
the wild boar in the fable, began industriously to 
whet its tusks for a war, which in its consequences 
must have proven disastrous to the cause of the Union 
and of freedom alike. 

Plainly, under the circumstances, there was but one 
course for the American Government to pursue, and 
that was to throw itself back upon American practice, 
rather than upon British precedent, and surrender 
the prisoners. And this it did, though not without 
embarrassment in view of the popularity of the cap- 
ture of those men, and of the deep resentment felt by 
all classes against the demand for their release. If 
the popular feeling was warlike in England, it was 
equally so in America. The Government, in getting 
rid of a war with England, could ill afford to do so 
by forfeiting the respect and confidence of its own 
citizens, whose love of country was, without doubt, 
sorely wounded by what, to the public eye, seemed 
like an ignominious backdown before British inso- 
lence and menace. 

It fell to the lot of Sumner to rescue the adminis- 
tration from this predicament, by appeasing the irri- 
tated national amour propre, which he achieved in a 
masterly speech before the Senate, January 9, 1862, 
entitled " The 1 Trent ' Case and Maritime Rights." 



He demonstrated to the almost universal satisfaction 
of the country, if not of the world, that the surrender 
of the rebel commissioners was not a backdown, but 
that, on the contrary, it was in strict accord with 
American principle and practice touching the right of 
search of neutral vessels at sea by belligerent Powers. 
It was the American contention that these Powers 
could not, in the exercise of the right of search, board 
neutral vessels at sea, and take out of them persons 
on whom such nations might otherwise have perfectly 
valid claims. This grand principle was now estab- 
lished by the demand of England and the act of 
America. America, therefore, had no cause for feel- 
ing humiliated by the surrender of the prisoners, but 
rather the strongest reason for experiencing a sense 
of accomplishment and triumph. To her other 
glories she had added the glory of leading the way 
to the reformation of long-existing abuses and 
wrongs in the law of nations. If America had sur- 
rendered the rebels to England, England had surely 
surrendered a bad principle and the support of many 
bad precedents to America. 

The speech produced a profound impression at 
home and abroad. The London Times was greatly 
chagrined at the skillful manner in which the ora- 
tor had turned the surrender to the advantage of the 
American Government and of the American people. 
"The great object of this remarkable oration," 
growled a famous correspondent of the Thunderer, 
" is to prove that the surrender of Messrs. Slidell and 
Mason is a great triumph for the American Govern- 
ment. There is, proverbially, no accounting for 
taste ; and if the American people are of Mr. Sum- 



ner's opinion I do not see why we should complain of 
their contentment." But neither the Times nor its 
famous correspondent was able to laugh down, or 
sneer down, or argue down the force of the speech. 
Sumner, with his customary thoroughness, had done 
what he set out to do, vindicated the Government, 
established for it in the popular regard a fresh claim 
to the confidence and support of the loyal North. 
And this was, in effect, dealing another blow upon 
the head of slavery, the supreme traitor, the origin 
and mainspring of the Rebellion. 

Sumner's labors for the recognition of the inde- 
pendence of the black republics, Hayti and Liberia, 
by the United States, had similar results. He found 
the spirit of slavery intrenched in public opinion and 
the laws of the land, and it was his purpose to strike 
it there as well as at the South in its chattel form. If 
dislodged from those coigns of vantage in the Re- 
public, if disowned by public opinion and expelled 
from the national statutes, he believed that it could 
be the more readily and effectively dealt with in the 
rebellious States. A move for the recognition of the 
black republics was a move against the many-headed 
wrong of slavery. 

Before the war the slave-power refused all recog- 
nition of Hayti and Liberia as members of the family 
of nations. Nearly a year after the opening of hos- 
tilities, President Lincoln, with characteristic caution, 
suggested the subject to Congress, in his annual 
message. Remarking that, " If any good reason 
exists why we should persevere longer in withhold- 
ing our recognition of the independence and sover- 
eignity of Hayti and Liberia, I am unable to discern 



it," he goes on to say, that he is unwilling " to in- 
augurate a novel policy in regard to them without 
the approbation of Congress," and thereupon submits 
to its " consideration the expediency of an appropri- 
ation for maintaining a Charge d'Affaires in each 
of those new States." This was enough for Sumner, 
who immediately took the matter up and pursued it 
with such zeal, discretion, and perseverance, that in 
June these States received their long-deferred recog- 
nition at the hands of the United States. 

Governor Andrew felt that the recognition of 
Hayti and Liberia was, in effect, the recognition of 
the colored man of the Union as well, and that the 
passage of the law placed a fresh jewel in Sumner's 
crown. The considerable and essential service of 
Sumner toward the success of the measure found 
grateful acknowledgement and appreciation from 
the two countries. The Liberian Commissioners, 
Alexander Crummell, Edward W. Blyden, and J. D. 
Johnson, who were at the time in Washington, 
promptly expressed the sentiments of Liberia to Mr. 
Sumner. " Had it not been for your masterly policy," 
they wrote him, " and your wise discretion, allied to 
a most persistent determination, we have reason to 
doubt whether the Bill of Recognition would not 
have met with a miscarriage during the present ses- 
sion of Congress." 

The objection to the passage of the Bill of Recog- 
nition by Mr. Saulsbury , of Delaware, is so absolutely 
absurd, so incredibly comic, and utterly asinine, that 
the writer begs to reproduce it as a curiosity of the 
ratiocination of a slavemaster's mind in senatorial 
debate, " It is evident," observed the acute Mr, 



Saulsbury, :< that this bill is going to pass. I want 
the country, however, to know that, according to the 
rules of the Senate, foreign ministers have a right 
upon this floor, and we have set apart a portion of 
the gallery for the ministers and their families. If 
this bill should pass both Houses of Congress and 
become a law, I predict that in twelve months, some 
negro will walk upon the floor of the Senate of the 
United States, and carry his family into that gallery 
which is set apart for foreign ministers. If that is 
agreeable to the taste and feeling of the people of 
this country, it is not to mine; and I only say that I 
will not be responsible for any such act. With this I 
will content myself." 

The final suppression of the slave-trade by treaty 
between Great Britain and, the United States was 
another effective blow dealt the hydra of the land, 
the ratification of which by the Senate received the 
powerful aid of the Chairman of the Committee on 
Foreign Relations. The ratification of a treaty 
between the two countries giving to each on the 
coasts of Africa and America a restricted right of 
search in suspected vessels flying the national colors 
of the other was, so long as the slave-power dom- 
inated the Senate, a thing impossible of accomplish- 
ment. The right was yielded for the African coast, 
but persistently withheld for the American, where it 
was notorious that slavers prowled with their African 
victims for the Southern market. But as the war 
waxed a new spirit arose in the North against this 
inhuman commerce. A Federal law had denounced 
it as piracy and punishable with death. But while 
the slave-power ruled, the law remained on the 



statute-book a dead letter. The rising hatred of 
slavery as the origin and mainspring of the Rebellion 
which was spreading through the North galvanized 
on February 21, 1862, into sudden and terrible life 
the dead letter of that law in the execution under it 
at New York of Nathaniel Gordon, an African slave- 
trader. The treaty for the final suppression of the 
atrocious traffic passed the Senate April 24, 1862. 

Eight days before the ratification of the treaty for 
the suppression of the African slave-trade, slavery 
was abolished by law in the District of Columbia. 
Sumner sustained a principal part in the consumma- 
tion of this great act. He was pained and dis- 
couraged by the absence from the annual message of 
the President of any proposition or discussion touch- 
ing emancipation. There was nothing in that docu- 
ment to indicate that Mr. Lincoln was considering 
the subject at all. On the contrary, the President 
had told him of a circumstance which might lead 
him to infer that Mr. Lincoln was still opposed to 
the use of this best weapon in the prosecution of the 
war for the Union. From the report of Simon 
Cameron, then Secretary of War, the President had 
struck a strong passage in relation to this very 
matter. But, notwithstanding these unfavorable 
symptoms, Sumner began to feel assured that the 
President was seriously grappling with the question. 

It was not long before Sumner's faith in the Presi- 
dent was happily confirmed. Early on the morning 
of March 6th, he was summoned to meet Mr. Lincoln, 
who read to him the draught of the special message 
of that date, proposing compensated emancipation. 
Sumner, who was never inclined to attach much 



value to the schemes for compensated emancipation, 
especially on a large scale, was too thankful for this 
evidence that the President was ready to move 
Abolitionward, to take a new departure, however 
slight, from the old policy of forbearance, for other 
than cordial words of welcome for the message. At 
his instance the President struck a doubtful para- 
graph from the draught. That day the message was 
communicated to the Senate, and the good work, as 
far as Mr. Lincoln was concerned, was begun, al- 
though no practical results followed this particular 
act of his. 

The principle of compensated emancipation on a 
small scale had been embodied in a bill, introduced 
in the Senate by Henry Wilson, December 16th, for 
the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. 
Sumner, unwilling to indorse the principle of com- 
pensated emancipation because it involved recogni- 
tion of right of property in persons, treated the 
measure as a scheme for the ransom of the slaves at 
the national capital. Rejecting with indignation the 
" wild and guilty fantasy that man can hold prop- 
erty in man," he nevertheless was ready to help to 
build " a bridge of gold " for the banishment of the 
barbarism of slavery. 

" Amidst all present solicitudes," were the fervid 
and cheering words with which he closed his able 
and elaborate argument in support of the Bill for 
Emancipation, "amidst all present solicitudes, the 
future cannot be doubtful. At the national capital 
slavery will give way to freedom. But the good 
work will not stop here ; it must proceed. What 
God and Nature decree Rebellion cannot arrest. And 



as the whole widespread tyranny begins to tumble, 
then, above the din of battle, sounding from the sea 
and echoing along the land, above even the exulta- 
tions of victory on hard-fought fields, will ascend 
voices of gladness, wherever civilization bears sway, 
to commemorate a sacred triumph, whose trophies, 
instead of tattered banners, are ransomed slaves." 
On April 16, 1862, the District Emancipation Act 
received the approval of the President. It was free- 
dom's first practical victory over slavery in the Gov- 

Mr. Lincoln, true to his character for going slow 
where any disturbance of the status quo of the invested 
interests of slavemasters was involved, withheld his 
approval from the measure five days after it passed 
the House. This delay of the President gave rise to 
no little anxiety on the part of the supporters of the 
bill. Among these anxious friends was Mr. Sumner, 
who, during this painful period, called on Mr. Lincoln 
and expressed the astonishment which he felt that 
the author of the Special Message on Compensated 
Emancipation could postpone his approval of the 
District Emancipation Act a single night. " Do you 
know who at this moment is the largest slaveholder 
in this country?" Sumner asked the great man with 
caustic irony, and, without waiting for reply, an- 
swered thus: "It is Abraham Lincoln; for he holds 
all the three thousand slaves of the District, which is 
more than any other person in the country holds." 

But if Mr. Lincoln was loth to meddle with the 
status quo of slavery in the Union, not so was Mr. 
Sumner who was ever in motion and running atilt, 
now at one, now at another of the many heads of the 



colossal evil. Now, it was against the incredible mean- 
ness of that proscriptive spirit which denied to the 
colored citizens going abroad the passport of the 
Government, or which refused to issue patents to 
inventors on account of color; now it was against 
those twin abominations which erected a man's color 
into a legal barrier to his carrying the mails, or made 
it a ground for excluding his testimony in judicial 
proceedings held under the Black Code of the District 
of Columbia and of the slave States, "wherein" so 
runneth the black letter of the Black Law, " any Chris- 
tian white person is concerned." 

Sumner began his efforts for the annulment of this 
infamous law, while the District Emancipation Bill 
was under consideration in the Senate. Aware that 
its total abolishment would not be immediately ef- 
fected, he moved to amend the Bill by the addition of 
a provision which prohibited "the exclusion of any wit- 
ness on account of color," in proceedings held under the 
Act. This was the thin edge of the movement for 
the civil rights of colored persons in the United 
States, the first step taken by the Government to- 
ward equality before the law. 

Having obtained so much for his colored fellow- 
citizens, Sumner, a few months later, made a second 
attempt in the same direction, and this time it was to 
extend the immunity to all judicial proceedings in the 
District. The second attempt proved also successful, 
and equality began to erect its benign crest over the 
Black Code of the national capital. Sumner, ever 
persistent and indefatigable, made a third attempt 
still further to broaden the immunity, by extending 
the operation of the principle of non-exclusion to the 



Southern States in judicial proceedings had under 
the Confiscation and Liberation Act. But this step 
was farther than the Senate was ready to go at that 
time. And so Mr. Sumner's amendment was re- 
jected. Congress, like the President, was singularly- 
timid in inaugurating any novel policy in that regard, 
surprisingly tender of the rights and prejudices of 
slavemasters at the expense of the slaves. 

Defeat had no deterrent effect upon a mind like 
Sumner's. Failing once, he tried again and again 
until he succeeded. Three times he attempted to ex- 
tend the principle of non-exclusion and equality to 
the proceedings in the courts of the United States, 
before he was enabled to carry his point. In the 
summer of 1864 he attached his proposition to the 
Sundry Civil Appropriation Bill as an amendment, 
and thus forced its consideration upon the Senate. 
John Sherman " trusted that after the experiences of 
last night when the thermometer here rose to 93 
and we were exhausted by debate on irrelevant mat- 
ter, the Senator from Massachusetts would not intro- 
duce upon this appropriation bill a topic of this kind." 
But Mr. Sherman's protest was in vain, for neither 
the heat of the evening nor the disapproval of Sena- 
tors could deter Sumner from his purpose to purge 
the laws of the Union of the stain of slavery, and to 
redress the wrongs of an oppressed race. 

His vigilance and persistency secured at this time 
a double triumph for freedom. On the selfsame 
appropriation bill he grafted an amendment for the 
abolition of the coastwise slave-trade. In no other 
way had he been able to force the continued exist- 
ence of this barbarism upon the attention of th^ 


Senate. Mr. Sherman, as Chairman of the Finance 
Committee, deprecated the amendment, not because 
he was opposed to the proposition, but that he wanted 
his bill kept free from " disputed extraneous political 
questions." But Sumner was firm, uncompromising, 
and so in the end the Senate, and not he, yielded, and 
the rider passed with the bill. 

Thomas H. Hendricks, of Indiana, in the course of 
a speech in opposition to Sumner's amendment for 
the abolition of the coastwise slave-trade uttered 
the following significant remarks : " I am surprised 
that any Senator should oppose the proposition of 
the Senator from Massachusetts, for we all know that 
eventually it will be adopted. The objection as to 
its materiality or proper connection with the measure 
is but an objection of time. No gentleman can 
question that the Senator from Massachusetts will 
eventually carry his proposition. Why, then, contest 
the matter longer ? It may as well come now as at 
any time." The fact is, Sumner was the anti-slavery 
trail-finder and path-opener for the Government. 
Where he made a way, Congress and President were, 
in time, sure to follow. 

His earnestness and radicalism were not always 
relished by the administration and his associates in 
the Government. That, however, did not make him 
less so. It was for him to press forward himself, and 
to urge forward others in this emergency, whether 
they chose to hear and heed him or not. He had 
an intolerant, uncompromising manner toward slav- 
ery and toward anyone who sought to buttress its 
barbarisms with the authority of the nation whose 
life it was seeking to destroy, which was at times, no 



doubt, a sore thorn in the sides of the cautious, con- 
ciliatory President. Edward Stanley, Provisional 
Governor of North Carolina, arouses the hot indig- 
nation of this man with his passionate hatred of 
slavery, by an attempt to revive the Black Code of 
that State which made the teaching of negroes a 
criminal offense. When Sumner heard of this shame- 
ful attempt, he hurried to lay the matter before Mr. 
Lincoln. Not finding that usually placid and jocose 
magistrate at the executive mansion, Sumner fol- 
lowed him to the War Department. There he laid 
his case before Mr. Stanley's master. But Mr. Stan- 
ley's master, possibly worn out with the Abolition 
badgering with which he was treated by Mr. Sumner 
whenever they met, either by accident or appoint- 
ment, and, possibly, struck also by the apparent 
triviality of the subject and the inopportunity of the 
visit, quite lost his patience, exclaiming petulantly, 
"Do you take me for a school committee-man?" 
" Not at all," Sumner replied, " I take you for Presi- 
dent of the United States; and I come with a case of 
wrong, in attending to which your predecessor, 
George Washington, if alive, might add to his re- 
nown." Such earnestness and dignity smoothed the 
ruffled temper of George Washington's worthy suc- 
cessor, who, thereupon, with perfect kindliness con- 
sidered the case with his friend. 

At last, after nearly two years of terrible conflict 
and destruction of life to save the Union with slavery, 
Mr. Lincoln was ready to try the other horn of the 
dilemma and test the salvability of the nation with- 
out slavery. To this end, on September 22, 1862, he 
announced his purpose to grasp Emancipation as 

35 2 


an instrument in the struggle. On that date he 
issued his preliminary proclamation, which declared 
that the slaves in all States in rebellion on January i, 
1863, should be thenceforward and forever free. 

Directly the President had firmly seized Emanci- 
pation as a weapon for putting down the Rebellion, 
Sumner started the agitation for colored troops. 
Two weeks after the preliminary proclamation was 
issued, he launched from the platform of Faneuil 
Hall the proposition to turn the slaves into soldiers. 
He pointed to Crispus Attucks, to Peter Salem, and 
to heroic instances during the war for the Union, as 
proof positive that the negroes possessed the stuff 
out of which good fighters were formed. Strike 
slavery, the origin and mainspring of rebellion, with 
the strong arm of the slave. Destroy the Rebellion 
by destroying slavery and arming the blacks. Eman- 
cipation and colored troops are the powder and ball 
which Providence hath rammed into the cannon of 
the North. Empty the Providential broadside into 
the flanks of the foe, these and more he thundered in 
the ears of the Government and the country. 

Other and mightier voices were thundering for 
colored troops also, passionate voices of lamentation, 
of frightful reverses, of broken and flying armies, of 
baffled friends of the Union whose hearts- were grow- 
ing sick at the gloomy, the almost hopeless, outlook 
for a speedy restoration of peace to a bleeding and 
distracted land. 

As early as July, 1862, the disastrous fortunes of the 
Union forces were constraining the Government, in its 
emergency, to make use of all the means which the 
state of the country had put within its reach for the 



suppression of the Rebellion. Military necessity was 
plainly demanding that the services of the blacks in 
some capacity should be enlisted on the side of the 
nation. And so on the 17th of that month the Presi- 
dent affixed his approval to a bill authorizing him, 
" to receive into the service of the United States, for 
the purpose of constructing intrenchments or per- 
forming camp service, or any other labor, or any mil- 
itary or naval service for which they may be found 
competent, persons of African descent ; and such 
persons shall be enrolled and organized under such 
regulations, not inconsistent with the Constitution 
and laws, as the President may prescribe." This was 
the first cautious step taken toward carrying Africa 
into the war, the beginning, in fact, of colored 

On February 9, 1863, Mr. Sumner introduced in 
the Senate a bill for the enlistment of slaves and 
other persons of African descent. But the measure 
was allowed to sleep the sleep of death in the Military 
Committee to which it was referred. It was not 
until a year afterward that the subject was revived 
in the House by Thaddeus Stevens, when the employ- 
ment of colored troops was expressly authorized. 

Colored troops were employed, however, many 
months before the tardy enactment of this law. On 
January 26, 1863, Secretary Stanton gave permission 
to Governor Andrew to raise a colored regiment. 
This regiment, the afterwards famous Fifty-fourth, 
was raised, and the following May ordered to the 
seat of war in South Carolina, where, under its gal- 
lant young Colonel, Robert G. Shaw, it demonstrated 
before Fort Wagner that the blacks had the stuff of 
2 3 



true soldiers in them. Subsequently Massachusetts 
sent two other regiments of colored soldiers into the 
field, one of infantry and the other of cavalry. Their 
fighting qualities were soon established. If at first 
the employment of colored troops was a hard riddle 
to many minds, those three black regiments wrote 
the glorious answer clear and large for the nation to 
read. And the nation, notwithstanding its pro-slav- 
ery goggles which minimized and distorted every- 
thing connected with the humanity and manhood 
rights of this unfortunate race, was not so blind to its 
own emergent needs as to miss the point, and 
immense significance of the lesson writ in the 
blood and valor of its colored contingent. 

But, though the North was not in these circum- 
stances blind to its own dire needs, it proved, on 
almost every occasion calling for justice to its colored 
allies, blind enough to their simplest demands for 
fair and equal treatment. There is something incred- 
ibly mean in that pro-slavery spirit which, after call- 
ing men to fight and die to preserve the life of the 
nation, could refuse them equal pay with the other 
soldiers on account of their color. Nevertheless, of 
such incredible meanness was the Government cer- 
tainly guilty toward its colored troops. 

Keenly did Mr. Sumner feel this outrageous dis- 
crimination against his wards. Again and again he 
attacked it, sought repeatedly to place the black sol- 
diers on an equality, in respect of pay and bounty, 
with their white brothers in arms. He was not alone 
in efforts to this end. Wilson and Fessenden in the 
Senate, perceived with him the wrong and endeav- 
ored to have it redressed, but not with the moral 



earnestness and persistency which characterized the 
endeavors of Sumner in that regard. 

The Fifty-fourth and the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts 
regiments of colored troops enlisted with the under- 
standing that there was to be no discrimination 
against them, on account of their color. But, all the 
same, the Government paid them ten dollars a month, 
where it paid thirteen to the privates of white regi- 
ments. Massachusetts tried to correct this injustice 
by making up out of her own coffers these three dol- 
lars to the men. But when this difference was sent 
to be paid to those two regiments they firmly 
declined to receive the money lest by so doing they 
compromised their demand for equality in the army. 

In February and June of 1864, Mr. Sumner pressed 
this subject upon the attention of the Senate, arguing 
that the wrong done had no warrant in law since 
those regiments did not enlist under the Act of 1862, 
which contained a special provision with reference to 
African troops, but under that of 1861, which con- 
tained no such provision, and authorized enlistments 
for three years. The question was finally settled, 
not by legislation, but through the interpretation of 
the statutes by the law department of the Govern- 
ment. The Attorney-General, Mr. Bates, in affirming 
the equal rights of colored soldiers, put an end to 
this odious caste distinction in the national service, 
and constrained the Government to a step of tardy 

The Government, in both its legislative and execu- 
tive branches, manifested from first to last an ex- 
traordinary timidity or indisposition to advance the 
interests of the colored race. Fear of the border 



States was, probably, responsible for much of this 
singular conduct, but colorphobia in the Govern- 
ment itself played, without doubt, an important part 
in its production. The records of those years are 
full of examples of this character. Here is an in- 
stance in point: Henry Wilson, as early as January, 
1864, embodied in a bill to promote enlistments a 
clause, declaring that when " any man or boy of 
African descent, or in service or labor in any State, 
under its laws, should be mustered into the military or 
naval service of the United States, he and his mother, 
wife, and children shall be forever free." 

This perfectly just and very moderate measure re- 
quired a year and a month before its friends could 
secure its enactment into law. " Future generations," 
exclaimed Sumner, in his closing remarks upon the 
bill; "Future generations will read with amazement, 
that a great people when national life was assailed, 
hesitated to exercise a power so simple and benefi- 
cent; and this amazement will know no bounds, as 
they learn that Congress higgled for months on a 
question, whether the wives and children of our 
colored soldiers should be admitted to freedom." 

Slavery died hard. Fugitive slaves were hunted in 
the District of Columbia even after the passage of 
the District Emancipation Bill. The poor fleeing 
creatures were returned again and again to their 
owners by the Union armies. These acts became so 
frequent and general that Congress, in the summer 
of 1862, prohibited military and naval officers from 
erecting themselves into commissioners for the re- 
turn of fugitive slaves on pain of being dismissed 
from the service. 



In February, 1864, Mr. Sumner reported from the 
Committee on Slavery and Freedmen a bill for the 
repeal of all Acts for the rendition of fugitive slaves. 
The bill he accompanied with a comprehensive re- 
port, reviewing the history and influence of slavery 
in the Government in its relation to these acts, and 
closing with a demand for their entire and instant 
repeal. But, notwithstanding that the Emancipation 
Proclamation had been issued more than thirteen 
months before, and that the Secretary of War had 
more than a year previously given Governor Andrew 
official permission to raise a regiment of colored 
troops, and that at the time of its introduction in the 
Senate, several colored regiments were in the field 
fighting the battles of the country, yet the history of 
its passage through Congress was another repetition 
of the old, shameful story. 

That the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Acts should 
be bitterly opposed by the Democrats was not at all 
surprising, but we confess to no little astonishment 
in noticing that Senator Sherman obstructed its pas- 
sage through the Senate, that he actually sought to 
emasculate the bill by an amendment which saved 
the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 in full force on the 
statute-book, and that this proposition was adopted 
and grafted on the bill by the Senate. Mr. Foster, 
of Connecticut, on April 20, 1864, made an elaborate 
argument in vindication of the Act of 1793. 

With Mr. Sherman's pro-slavery amendment grafted 
upon his bill, Mr. Sumner wisely refrained from 
pressing it to a vote, but determined, as he not infre- 
quently did in similar circumstances, to await the 
action of the House, which on June 13th passed a 



bill repealing all the Fugitive Slave Acts. This 
measure Mr. Sumner reported in the Senate and 
pressed to a vote. It was not until the 28th of June 
that this bill became a law, i. e., more than five 
months after the date on which Mr. Sumner intro- 
duced the proposition in the Senate. However, 
thanks to his persistency, Congress had at last made 
an end of those wicked laws, and dealt another blow 
to the expiring slave hydra. 

M The main proposition ever is to strike slavery when- 
ever you can hit it," retorted Sumner to John Sher- 
man during the consideration of the bill to liberate 
the wives and children of colored soldiers. Mr. 
Sherman had moved to postpone consideration of the 
measure " with a view that we may act upon the 
main proposition," to wit, the constitutional amend- 
ment abolishing slavery. Sumner was certainly not less 
earnest and persistent for the adoption of the consti- 
tutional amendment than was Mr. Sherman. But he 
did not feel that because the joint resolution was on 
its passage through Congress that all anti-slavery 
efforts were to be pretermitted in the meantime. 
And, without doubt, it behooved him, who was bent 
on the death of slavery as no other member of the 
Government was, to continue without cessation the 
struggle for its destruction. For the joint resolution 
was more than a year on its way through both 
branches of Congress ; and it was two years in all 
from its introduction to the final ratification of 
the amendment by the requisite number of States 
and proclamation of that fact by Mr. Seward, the 
Secretary of State. 

Sumner was right to take nothing for granted 



where slavery was concerned, to regard the enact- 
ment of no measure, however just and expedient, 
which involved the abolishment of the curse as a 
foregone conclusion. He was strongly and sternly 
unwilling to commit the fate of the slaves, in any 
degree, to the chapter of accidents and chances. He 
was for striking the fell destroyer of the freedom of 
the colored race and of the peace of the Union 
whenever and wherever Congress could do so. And 
this was at all times and under all circumstances his 
main proposition. 

The final breaking down of caste distinction on the 
street cars of the District of Columbia was achieved 
largely through his active and persistent hostility to 
it. In hitting it he knew well that he was hitting 
one of the many heads of the monster wrong of the 
land. And it was characteristic of him that when he 
began to operate with his club upon one of those 
baleful heads, he desisted not until that particular 
foe of freedom was subdued and beaten to the earth. 
One after another of the street-car lines of the capital 
he attacked, as they entered the Senate to obtain 
renewals of their franchises, with his invariable amend- 
ment to their respective bills for incorporations : 

"Provided, That there shall be no regulation excluding any 
person from any car on account of color." 

The last of these street railway companies to suc- 
cumb was the Washington and Georgetown Com- 
pany, which in February, 1865, surrendered to the 
genius of equality before the law. After this time it 
was illegal for any street railway company in the 
District of Columbia to exclude from its cars any 
person on account of color. But even then Mr. Sum- 



ner did not put aside his club, and well that he did 
not. For the fight for equality on the cars was not 
yet finished. The Washington and Georgetown 
Company neglected to comply promptly with the 
provisions of the law, by keeping up the discrimina- 
tion against colored persons who sought to enter its 
cars. When this illegal action was brought to Mr. 
Sumner's knowledge, he wrote a sharp note to the 
president of the company, calling his attention to 
the failure of his agents to obey the law, and serving 
notice on him that, unless the breach was mended, he, 
Mr. Sumner, would at the next session of Congress 
move the forfeiture of the charter of the corporation. 
This determined front brought the company to its 
senses, and consummated the final opening of the 
street-cars of the District of Columbia to all persons, 
regardless of race or color. 

Slavery is dying on sea and land. Rebellion every- 
where through the length and breadth of the South 
is collapsing under the tremendous trip-hammering 
of Grant, Sherman, and the Union armies, reinforced 
now with more than 150,000 colored soldiers. Sher- 
man begins his masterly march to the sea. Now 
Atlanta falls before the advances of his resistless 
legions, now Savannah, now Charleston. Now Grant 
has begun those incessant and mighty blows, which 
are to drive the rebels from Richmond, to beat to 
pieces the proud and hitherto invincible army of 
Northern Virginia, and to force Lee to surrender. 
All these great events were coming to pass while 
slavery lay writhing in death throes. Terrible in life, 
it was appalling in death. Its last act was worthy of 
it, that act which added the assassination of a Presi- 



dent to the black mountain of its matchless horrors 
and iniquities. 

Lincoln and Sumner, though unlike, were never- 
theless the best of friends. No more faithful sup- 
porter had Mr. Lincoln than was Mr. Sumner. They, 
notwithstanding frequent differences, were cordially- 
appreciative of the virtues of each other. Sumner 
heartily and unwaveringly urged the President's 
claims to renomination and reelection. Others of 
the radical and anti-slavery wing of the Republican 
party preferred Chase, but close friends as were 
Sumner and Chase, the former never disguised his 
decided preference for Mr. Lincoln as his own suc- 
cessor. Lincoln was slow, excessively cautious per- 
haps, yet he was in the main inclined Abolitionward. 
At any rate he was a bird in the hand, while all other 
candidates were regarded by Sumner as, politically, 
so many birds in the bush. He very wisely refused 
to imperil the anti-slavery accomplishments and 
prospects of the war in the crisis of a change of 

The circumstances of his last conference with the 
President are infinitely creditable to the heads and 
hearts of both. In June, 1864, it appears that the 
Smith Brothers, of Boston, were, by order of the Navy 
Department, charged with fraud in the performance 
of certain contracts with that Department. They 
were imprisoned in Fort Warren, and bail placed at 
a half million dollars. The trial of these men was 
held before a military tribunal, which sentenced 
them to two years' imprisonment, and to pay a fine 
of twenty thousand dollars. 

Sumner laid the case of the convicted men before 



the President, and appealed to him to revoke the 
sentence of the court. Mr. Lincoln, who was evi- 
dently impressed with Mr. Sumner's representation 
of the facts, requested him to read the report to the 
Secretary of the Navy in relation to the case, and to 
give an opinion of the same. This Sumner did at 
once, and prepared for the President a written opin- 
ion thereon. As soon as this was done he presented 
himself at the executive mansion. It was late in the 
afternoon, and the illustrious object of his visit was 
on the point of entering his carriage for a drive. The 
President suggested that the transaction be put off 
until next day. But Mr. Sumner replied that it was 
a case which did not admit of delay, and that the 
President ought not to sleep that night until he had 
considered it. 

Touched by Mr. Sumner's earnestness, Mr. Lincoln 
made an appointment with him for eleven o'clock 
that evening. At that hour, and through a thunder- 
storm, Mr. Sumner joined the President, who was 
promptly on hand to listen to the opinion which he 
had requested. 

At the conclusion of the reading of it, Mr. Lincoln 
said that he would write his opinion at once, and in- 
vited Mr. Sumner to call the next morning to hear it, 
adding defensively, that he " opened shop at nine 
o'clock." At the time appointed Mr. Sumner was on 
hand, and read with satisfaction the President's dis- 
approval of the judgment and sentence. 

While Mr. Sumner was making an abstract of the 
Presidential indorsement, Mr. Lincoln regaled him 
with passages from the effusions of Petroleum V. 
Nasby. The reading was diversified with a running 



commentary from the reader. " For the genius to 
write these things I would gladly give up my office," 
he repeated enthusiastically to Mr. Sumner, as the 
message which he had sent the author. This singular 
entertainment lasted about half an hour. It was the 
last time that these two great men met for the trans- 
action of public business. For on March 23, 1865, 
the President left Washington to join General Grant 
at City Point, where he remained until after the fall 
of Richmond. He returned to Washington April 
9th, and on the following Friday evening, April 14th, 
was shot by J. Wilkes Booth, and died early the next 

No more generous and glowing tribute was pro- 
nounced over the grave of the illustrious martyr to 
Liberty and Union than was Sumner's eulogy before 
the municipal authorities of the city of Boston, June 
1, 1865. True to his habit of ending no speech unless 
in some way it demanded the destruction of slavery, 
the orator did not allow such an imposing occasion 
to pass without calling for the total annihilation of 
the accursed thing, with its vast spider-like web of 
caste and inequality. The permanent supremacy in 
the Republic of the ideas for which the North had 
fought, depended, he solemnly declared, above the 
grave of the great statesman who had met martyrdom 
for those ideas, upon the extension of the suffrage to 
the colored men of the South. Indemnity for the past, 
and security for the future was the one cue which he 
had chosen to guide his feet through the mazes of 
of reconstruction of the rebellious States. 



At the close of the war the gravest of problems 
remained to be solved. The riddle of the slave 
sphinx still awaited its Oedipus. How should local 
self-government be reconstituted in the old slave 
States was the momentous question then to be set- 
tled. Sumner had his plan, others theirs. His he 
erected on the simple basis of equality. No mere 
party considerations entered into its straightforward 
intention. He was not careful to enfold within his 
scheme any principle or device looking to the politi- 
cal supremacy of his section as a section. It was 
freedom which he was ever and solely solicitous of 
establishing, the supremacy of democratic ideas and 
institutions of securing and assuring forever to the 
new-born nation. He desired and strove for the 
ascendency of his section and party so far only as 
they were the actual custodians of national justice 
and progress, the real possessors of the great and 
quickening principles of human rights enumerated in 
the Declaration of Independence. 

Long before the end of the Rebellion Sumner's 
mind had begun to grapple with this problem. As 
early as February n, 1862, he broached the subject 
in the Senate in a series of resolutions touching the 
constitutional status of the rebellious States, and the 


duty of Congress in regard to their government and 
reconstruction. " State rebellion is State suicide," 
was the pivotal proposition of the resolution. With 
the termination of Statehood slavery terminated also, 
since it derived its existence solely and exclusively 
from the authority of the State. By reason of their 
insurrection against the supremacy of the Constitu- 
tion, the Southern States had reverted to a Territo- 
rial condition, and, like all national territory, their 
government devolved upon the United States. 

It was, therefore, the duty of Congress to " assume 
complete jurisdiction of such vacated territory, where 
such unconstitutional and illegal things have been 
attempted, and proceed to establish therein repub- 
lican forms of government under the Constitu- 
tion, and in the execution of this trust provide 
carefully for the protection of all the inhabitants 
thereof, for the security of families, the organization 
of labor, the encouragement of industry, and the 
welfare of society, and in every way discharge the 
duties of a just, merciful, and paternal Government." 

Such was the radical and comprehensive scheme 
for Southern reconstruction presented thus early by 
Sumner. Its introduction produced quite a flurry 
of feeling in the Senate and the country at large. 
Republican leaders, like Fessenden, Sherman, Doo- 
little, and others, promptly disowned it as the policy 
of the party. They were not mistaken in so doing, 
for the Republican party at that time had not so 
much as dreamed, in the brain of any other man 
than Sumner's, of a plan at once so bold and radical 
for the reconstruction of the rebellious States. Four 
years later, however, these very leaders and the 



great body of the Republican party had caught up 
with Sumner on this question, and occupied then 
substantially the position taken by him in those 
famous propositions. 

These propositions he elaborated and defended in 
an article, published in the Atlantic Monthly for 
October, 1863, and entitled " Our Domestic Rela- 
tions," which the paper contended hinged upon one 
question, viz.: How to treat the rebel States. State 
suicide and the reversion to territorial conditions of 
States in insurrection against the supremacy of the 
Constitution, which was the keynote and the key- 
stone of the article, ran, without doubt, entirely 
counter to the constitutional fiction of once a State 
always a State which lay at the bottom of the policy 
of the administration in the conduct of the war. So 
totally distinct was Sumner's idea from that which 
had officially obtained in the prosecution of the war, 
that Montgomery Blair, a member of Mr. Lincoln's 
cabinet, felt it incumbent upon him to take issue 
with the article and to point out that its author had 
directly arrayed himself against the President on a 
question of fundamental policy in the conduct of 
the war. 

The tremendous struggle in which the nation was 
engaged for its life attracted the entire attention, 
absorbed the utmost energies which could be put 
forth of Government and people. There was neither 
time nor disposition, under these circumstances, to 
consider less imperious questions. Catch your fish 
and do your frying afterwards. Conquer the rebel- 
lious States, then determine how they shall be 
treated, was the unconscious policy pursued by the 


Government until near the close of the war. Even 
Sumner, forehanded as he always was where freedom 
was concerned, was silent on the subject of recon- 
struction after the publication of his Atla?ittc Monthly 
article until the spring of 1864, when the Senate 
having under consideration the credentials of certain 
claimants as Senators from Arkansas, he introduced 
a resolution declaratory of the necessity of the vote 
of both Houses of Congress for the readmission of 
rebel States into the Union. 

And a little later, on June 13th, in fact, when 
the Senate was discussing a joint resolution for the 
recognition of the free State government of Ar- 
kansas, he spoke with almost unwonted earnestness, 
urging the importance of making haste slowly in 
that direction, as well as the duty of securing from 
the rebel States, what he described as " irreversible 
guaranties," as a condition precedent to their re- 
admission into the Union which they had attempted 
to destroy. 

The question raised by the joint resolution 
seemed to him the gravest presented for decision 
since it was determined to meet the Rebellion by 
arms ; and he opposed the admission of Arkansas, at 
that time and under then existing circumstances, as 
" improper, unreasonable, and dangerous." " The 
readmission of a rebel State," he declared, " is not 
iess important than its original admission into the 

" It is not enough," he argued, "if we comply with 
certain forms as constitute a State in name only. 
Much more must be done, and all this must be 
placed under fixed and irreversible guaranties. Vain 

3 68 


is victory on the field if these guaranties are not 
obtained." But the Senate was not yet ready to 
grapple with the problem mooted by Mr. Sumner. 
The resolution for the admission of Arkansas, and 
that of Sumner defining one of the conditions of re- 
construction, on reference to the Judiciary Commit- 
tee, were reported upon adversely by that Committee, 
which had the effect, for the nonce, to push out of 
the Senate the whole subject of Southern reconstruc- 

With the sweeping successes which were attending 
the Union armies in the field, and the probable cer- 
tainty of the speedy collapse of the Rebellion, the sub- 
ject of rebel reconstruction began to attract the notice 
of others in Congress than Mr. Sumner. As early as 
February 15, 1864, Henry Winter Davis, of Maryland, 
reported a bill in the House to guarantee to certain 
States, " whose governments have been usurped or 
overthrown," a republican form of government. This 
bill among others provided for the assembling of 
constitutional conventions, chosen by " loyal white 
male citizens." 

In the Senate the principle of colored suffrage as 
an element in the reconstruction of the rebel States 
was proposed for the first time by an amendment to 
the Davis Bill, extending the basis on which the 
constitutional conventions were to be chosen so as 
to include the Freedmen. But the Senate by a vote 
of five to twenty-four rejected the novel and revolu- 
tionary proposition. Clearly the idea of colored 
suffrage had not then found a foothold, certainly not 
more than a foothold, in the Republican party. The 
House Bill was finally passed by the Senate, but, even 


without the new radicalism of suffrage for the South- 
ern negroes, it failed to meet the approval of the 
President. And so came to naught another attempt 
to formulate a scheme for the reconstruction of the 

The principle of colored suffrage the Senate had 
twice before voted down, first, in the case of the Ter- 
ritory of Montana, when a bill organizing for it tem- 
porary Territorial government, was under considera- 
tion; and, second, in the case of the city of Washing- 
ton, when a bill to amend its charter was on its 
passage through that body. In both instances it was 
attempted, without avail, to extend the elective fran- 
chise to colored men, inhabitants of the Territory and 
the city respectively. Sumner strove strenuously on 
each occasion against the non-exclusion of colored 
citizens from the register. 

About the beginning of 1865, the subject of recon- 
struction had made considerable progress upon the 
attention of statesmen. The case of Louisiana 
served still further to advance the question in that 
regard. On February 18th, Mr. Trumbull reported 
in the Senate a joint resolution recognizing the gov- 
ernment of that State, inaugurated by a convention 
held at New Orleans, April 6, 1864, as the legitimate 
State government. There was no provision in the 
new order thus instituted, which extended the right 
to vote to the negroes. The State, therefore, was to 
remain in the hands of the very people who voted 
four years before to take it out of the Union. The 
danger to freedom, to the Northern idea which the 
war was establishing at an expenditure of so much 
blood and treasure seemed to Sumner extreme in 



view of the possibilities of a return of the South to 
power, opened by the Louisiana Bill. 

The readmission of Louisiana was a pet enterprise 
of President Lincoln. He had set his heart on inau- 
gurating his experimental policy for the reconstruc- 
tion of the rebellious States with the restoration of 
this one to its old place in the Union. The joint 
resolution was accordingly pressed upon the atten- 
tion of the Senate, and a vote insisted upon. But no 
vote could its friends obtain, owing largely to the 
firm and vigilant opposition of Sumner, and to his 
parliamentary skill in the contest, which continued 
several days before a postponement of the subject 
was secured. Another attempt to reconstruct the 
South thus came to naught. If the Republican party 
was not then at all disposed to adopt Sumner's plan, 
it was not altogether willing to swallow the Presi- 
dent's, for the constitutional rehabilitation of the 
slave States. 

The struggle over the Louisiana Bill developed the 
fact, that at that date the Republican party was not 
in favor of adopting colored suffrage as a condition 
of reconstruction, nor was it included in the Presi- 
dent's scheme. On the contrary, it was an open 
secret that Mr. Lincoln took the failure of the joint 
resolution to pass the Senate quite to heart. He was 
sorely disappointed and chagrined, so much so, in- 
deed, that it was thought Mr. Sumner's responsibility 
for the failure would cause a breach between him 
and the President. But Mr. Lincoln was a politician 
of too much calculation and tact to allow the occur- 
rence, however unpleasant, to interrupt the intimate 
personal and political relations which existed be- 


tween himself and so powerful a leader. Accord- 
ingly, on the evening of March 5th, he promptly 
stopped the wagging tongue of Madame Rumor by 
inviting Sumner to accompany him to the inau- 
gural ball, where the two statesmen appeared before 
the public on the old friendly footing. 

Had the wise and tactful Lincoln remained at the 
helm during his second term, it is impossible to say 
how far he might have been able to control the re- 
construction policy of his party. That he would 
have exerted a distinct influence in shaping its char- 
acter seems not at all improbable. But his death put 
a man in his place, as lacking in his great qualities 
of mind and heart as it was possible for destiny to 
pick up wherewith to present a Presidential contrast. 
It is hard to understand why Lincoln was taken and 
Johnson left. But as there are no accidents in the 
universe, Andrew Johnson, therefore, could not have 
been an accident. We must believe that his acces- 
sion to the Presidency, at the time and under the cir- 
cumstances, was one of those historic occurrences 
through which an " increasing purpose runs." 

About a week after the death of his great predeces- 
sor, Chief Justice Chase and Mr. Sumner called in 
company on the new head of the nation, to learn 
something of his intentions with regard to the recon- 
struction of the rebel States, and to urge him to espouse 
the cause of equal rights for the colored race. Mr. 
Sumner fancied that the President seemed impressed. 
A few days later, Sumner, who was full of uneasiness 
and apprehension as to the President's course toward 
the South, called again on Mr. Johnson, and had a sec- 
ond conversation with him on matters discussed dur- 



ing the first visit. It is possible that Sumner and the 
Chief Justice did all the talking at that time, and 
that Sumner, who was alone at the second call, talked 
the whole time then also to the willing exclusion of 
the President. Be that as it may, Sumner went away 
believing that he had received from the strange man 
positive assurances of agreement on the colored-suf- 
frage question. 

To Mr. Sumner's appeal to him to use the power 
and influence of his great office toward carrying into 
the new political order, then soon to be established in 
the South, the principles of the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, Mr. Johnson replied: " On this question, 
Mr. Sumner, there is no difference between us; you 
and I are alike." Sumner went away deceived in the 
purpose of the President. It is possible that Mr. 
Johnson was no less deceived in his own purpose. 
His visitor and himself forgot, perhaps, in the glow 
of Sumner's earnestness and eloquence, that, after all, 
he, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, 
was a Southern man, with the traditions, the preju- 
dices, the mental and moral limitations of his section, 
from the slavery of which no Emancipation Proclama- 
tion was able to liberate his mind, free him for one 
moment, as a voluntary and thinking being, and ex- 

It was natural enough that such a man should ap- 
proach the Southern problem from the standpoint of 
his section rather than from that of the North, and 
that he should attempt to reorganize civil society in 
the old slave States in the interest of the old masters 
rather than of the freedmen. Such an attempt, how- 
ever, at the time was utterly impracticable — could not 


possibly succeed. No reconstruction of the seceded 
States had the slightest chance of adoption as the 
national policy in that regard, which proceeded upon 
the absurd assumption that the victorious North had 
nothing to do with the business. But unfortunately 
such was the character of President Johnson's recon- 
struction policy. 

On the other hand, the old slavemasters, in the 
sun of this extraordinary policy, undertook to frame 
constitutions and establish governments upon a cor- 
responding assumption that their former slaves had 
no rights which Southern white men were bound to 
respect. When the work of framing the new consti- 
tutions and laws was finished, it was plain to the 
dullest comprehension that the freedmen were as 
completely serfs under the new order as they had 
been slaves under the old one. Nothing was changed 
except a name. The old wrong lived on, vital in 
every part. If African serfdom was now to take the 
place of African slavery, was the serf-power to ascend 
the throne of the slave-power also ? What, then, had 
the war settled ? What had the expenditure of the 
blood and treasure of the North effected, if instead 
of Southern slaves the nation was to be cursed with 
Southern serfs, if in room of the rule of slavemasters 
there was to succeed the reign of serf-masters ? Like 
fire these passionate questionings ran through the 
North. The conflagration which ensued consumed to 
ashes this first attempt to reconstruct the rebel 
States. But we are anticipating. 

Congress had adjourned, and Sumner had gone 
home under the glad impression that the anti-slavery 
work of his life was ended, when the President began 



his reconstruction performance, which, as it pro- 
gressed from one reactionary step to another, excited 
through the North astonishment and consternation, 
accompanied by a rapidly increasing storm of protest 
and indignation. 

Northern alarm and Northern demand found voice 
in a speech made by Sumner before the Republican 
State Convention of Massachusetts, held at Wor- 
cester, September 14, 1865. Sumner, in view of the 
grave emergency which the President's Southern 
policy had precipitated upon the country, was chosen 
to preside at this convention. To him all the friends 
of freedom turned in the new crisis for instruction 
and inspiration, and from such a platform his words 
were sure to go to the ends of the North. Without 
expressly taking issue with the President, for Sumner 
and others still clung to the delusion that Andrew 
Johnson might be made to see the error of his way, 
and be induced to take a fresh departure in unison 
with Northern sentiment and purpose on the re- 
construction problem, and were, therefore, somewhat 
mindful not to launch into hasty opposition to the 
official head of their party, the Worcester address, 
nevertheless, sounded the keynote of the Republican 
reconstruction policy with no uncertainty of mean- 

Justice and protection was its watchward. Justice 
to the freedmen; protection for the North. They 
were intimately linked, the one with the other. 
Security for the future should be the corner-stone 
and keystone of the reconstructed Union. Defeated 
in war, the South designed now to retrieve its broken 
fortunes by a resort to fraud and cunning in the 


restored Union. The abolition of slavery it was 
scheming to nullify by substituting for it the old 
wrong under a new name. The freedmen were to be 
chained to the soil, reduced to serfdom, while the 
rebel States were to return to their old places in the 
Union, in consequence, stronger in federal numbers 
than when they seceded, to set up a slave-empire. 
This enlarged representation, conspiring with the 
Copperhead party of the North, would presently 
reestablish Southern domination in the Republic. 

This well achieved, the new serf-masters would 
proceed with the execution of their monstrous pro- 
gramme which included a repudiation of the national 
debt or else an intention to fasten upon its payment, 
as a condition, the payment of the rebel debt, also 
compensation for the emancipated slaves, and the 
pensioning of rebel soldiers equally with loyal ones. 
Safeguards, irreversible guaranties, security for the 
future against these perils must be demanded and 
insisted upon by the Republican party, speaking and 
acting for the victorious North. 

Irreversible guaranties could not be obtained by 
haste, by executive action, by yielding to the prej- 
udice of color, by oaths, or pardons. How then may 
they be obtained ? (i) Time is necessary ; (2) rebels 
must be excluded from political power ; (3) a hand 
of iron in a velvet glove is required in dealing with 
the leaders of the Rebellion ; (4) the North must 
turn to constant loyalists in the South, regardless of 
race or color; (5) it must look to Congress which 
has plenary powers over the whole subject ; and, 
finally, all of the guaranties thus obtained must be 
completed and crowned by an amendment of the 



Constitution expressly providing that hereafter there 
shall be no denial of the elective franchise or any 
exclusion of any kind on account of race or color, 
but all persons shall be equal before the law. 

Thus spoke Sumner to Massachusetts, who in turn 
took up the stern, deep note and sent it pealing 
through the North, and in the ears of the President. 
But all heedless of the rising storm, Andrew Johnson 
bent himself stubbornly upon his obnoxious course. 
In November Sumner remonstrated by telegraph 
with him. They were words thrown away. Re- 
publican remonstrance and protest exerted not the 
slightest effect upon the conduct of the President, 
who, metaphorically, had taken the political bit 
between his official teeth, and, regardless of the 
frantic outcries of the North, was dashing willfully 
and viciously with the results of the war toward an 
overturn where all would be lost. 

The Republican party was almost stupefied with 
fright. Thaddeus Stevens, who had not yet adopted 
colored suffrage as a condition of reconstruction, was 
almost in despair, lest the North should, since the 
President had proceeded so far, acquiesce in his 
policy as a finality before the meeting of Congress 
in December. Stevens had but one hope, which was 
to get the rebel States in a territorial condition. 
This was in the line of Sumner's reconstruction 
policy. That once accomplished, the Pennsylvania 
Congressman did not doubt Congress would then be 
able to deal with the question, and avert the impend- 
ing peril to Northern political ascendency which was 
generally looked upon as one Qf, if not the capital 
achievement of the war, 


Henry Winter Davis saw but two modes of avert- 
ing the threatened catastrophe of a return to power 
of the South in the restored Union, and they were 
for Congress on assembling " to pass a law by two- 
thirds over the President's veto, prescribing the 
conditions of reconstruction of any State govern- 
ment, and declaring none republican in form which 
excludes negroes from voting," or secondly, " to pass 
an amendment of the Constitution over the head of 
the President, prescribing universal suffrage." Mr. 
Davis did not, however, anticipate with any con- 
fidence that the then coming Congress would be equal 
o these things. He was in despair at the national 
outlook, and died suddenly when Congress had been 
in session but a few weeks. 

Sumner shared in the general dejection and fore- 
boding of disaster. His apprehensions as a states- 
man and a man were indeed intense. So great were 
these fears of evil that he determined to make a final 
attempt to induce the President to hearken to the 
prayers and remonstrances of his party, and to aban- 
don his mischievous policy in the treatment of the 
rebel States. On the eve of the assembling of Con- 
gress, he called on Mr. Johnson in pursuance of this 
purpose, and though the interview lasted three hours, 
Mr. Sumner at its close was convinced that the Presi- 
dent was beyond the reach of reason, and that there 
was nothing for the Republican party to do, under 
the circumstances, but to annul by Congressional 
action the Presidential policy, and to save the results 
of the war to the North and the negro by a recon- 
struction which should guaranty protection to the 
one an4 Qitizenship to the other. 



The prevision of Winter Davis, that the Congress 
which was to convene in December, 1865, would not 
be equal to the contest with the President, was fully 
borne out by its performance, or rather by its failures 
in that regard. This was owing partly to the in- 
disposition of many Republican members of both 
branches to take issue with the administration, lest 
the doing so should perchance divide and damage 
the party, but more especially was it due to their 
strong unwillingness to adopt the idea of colored 
suffrage as a condition of reconstruction of the rebel 

In one form or another the equal rights of the col- 
ored race was almost constantly before that Congress. 
It was actually equal, however, to the passage, over the 
veto of the President,of the first Civil Rights Bill, which 
opened all courts, State and national, to colored per- 
sons as parties and witnesses, as to white citizens, but 
it could not conquer its prejudice against an exten- 
sion of the suffrage to the Southern colored man, 
until assisted by the fall elections of 1866. To cross 
that rubicon of reconstruction a radical leader like 
Sumner could not budge it an inch during its long 
session. The Republican majority of both Houses 
shrank back from colored suffrage as the Government 
had previously shuffled and played the coward be- 
fore emancipation and colored troops. 

How to protect the North and the Republican 
party against the return to power of the South, with- 
out resorting to colored suffrage, was in truth the 
problem which that Congress endeavored to solve. 
Could the ascendency of the Republican party be 
preserved, and Northern supremacy in the recon- 


structed Union be secured, without having recourse 
to so extraordinary and extreme a measure ? If so, 
that Congress wanted to discover just such a go- 
between way, and to walk therein. This was true, 
then, of leaders like Fessenden, Sherman, and Trum- 
bull, who afterwards accepted the new radicalism, 
aye, of stout-hearted Thad. Stevens, and sturdy Ben. 
Wade as well. They all in that Congress desired 
and sought without ceasing another and more con- 
venient way to attain their object, viz., the political 
ascendency of their section in the Republic, the 
erection of a permanent barrier against future tidal 
waves of Southern domination over it. 

This grand end Congress attempted to reach by a 
proposition to apportion representatives among the 
several States according to population, with a proviso 
which excluded from the basis of representation all 
persons excluded from the right to vote on account 
of race and color. The calculation of the author of 
the device, who was Mr. Blaine, and of the Re- 
publican members of Congress who supported it, was 
that the South, caught between the upper and nether 
millstones of it, would rather than have its federal 
numbers reduced extend the right to vote to the 
freedmen, in which case the new voters would aug- 
ment the numerical strength of the Republican party 
and so confirm it in power; but, if on the other hand, 
the South should, in view of these future conse- 
quences, refuse to take that horn of the dilemma 
presented to it by Congress, it would be thrown 
upon the other horn which would operate with no 
less fatality to any future revival of its political as- 
cendency under the Constitution. Thoroughly clipped 


in the wings and spurs of it, the dreaded Southern 
bird would, of course, be no match in the national 
cockpit for the mighty Northern fowl. Plainly the 
prime object of this scheme was not protection for 
the freedmen. Protection for the North and the 
Republican party was the one clear end which it was 
designed to reach. If the negroes got there, too, so 
be it. But their safe arrival could not be, under the 
circumstances, chargeable to the Republican party, 
but to an inscrutable Providence, for whose action in 
the premises that party could not possibly be held 
accountable at the polls. 

Against this compromise proposition Sumner set 
himself like flint. He was not willing to intrust 
national security to the chapter of probabilities and 
accidents to which they were committed by the 
" Blaine Amendment." He would establish irreversible 
guaranties of freedom, and the public faith, and the 
national peace, all of which could be done in but one 
way, and that was by carrying out in the reconstruc- 
tion of the South the promises of the Declaration of 
Independence, by the ample execution of the consti- 
tutional injunction to guaranty to the several South- 
ern States as a condition precedent to their re- 
admission into the Union a republican form of 
government. Nor more nor less would he support or 
be satisfied with. 

Colored suffrage, he argued, was not a matter of 
national choice at all, but an overruling necessity. It 
was the all-sufficient guaranty, being in itself peace- 
maker, reconciler, schoolmaster, and protector. "And 
now," he said finely, " declaring my belief in liberty 
and equality as the God-given birthright of all men, 


let me say, in the same spirit, if this be an error, it is 
an error I love — if this be a fault, it is a fault I shall 
be slow to renounce — if this be an illusion, it is an 
illusion which I pray may wrap the world in its an- 
gelic forms." 

The " Blaine Amendment," after a while, passed 
both Houses of Congress, but was vetoed by the 
President. It was, thereupon, carried by the lower 
chamber over the veto, but in the Senate, owing to 
Sumner's opposition, it failed to receive the requisite 
two-thirds vote, and, therefore, was never submitted 
for ratification to the States. Sumner's opposition 
to this pretty political contrivance, which was to 
secure protection to the North and the Republican 
party at the expense of the negro, called down upon 
him from his Republican associates a good deal of 
harsh criticism. Thaddeus Stevens, in particular, 
bitterly blamed him for its final failure to pass the 
Senate over the head of the President. But none of 
these things moved Sumner from his fixed purpose to 
make colored suffrage an indispensable element in 
the reconstruction of the South. 

The dread of a return of the South to power in the 
restored Union had another and unmistakable mani- 
festation in this Congress. It was the meaning of 
the movement to secure the admission of Colorado 
and Nebraska to the ranks of the States, which 
would, when effected, give the North four more votes 
in the Senate and as many in the House, before the 
rebel States got back into their old places. Pro- 
tection was the soul of this attempt, protection for 
the North, not for the negro, which the constitutions 
of these would-be States left no room for doubt. 



Each of these instruments limited the right to vote 
to white male citizens. 

But here again Sumner's uncompromising spirit 
proved a thorn in the sides of his party. His associ- 
ates, not all, but many of them, were for creating two 
new States, regardless of the wrong which their 
fundamental laws did the colored race, because the 
exigencies of party called for more votes in Congress, 
and the Electoral College. But with Sumner prin- 
ciple was ever above party. He could not vote to 
grant the prayer of these applicant States when they 
came with the stain of inequality and caste upon their 
hands. No, however great might be the emergent 
needs of party, he could not and would not vote to 
admit Colorado and Nebraska until their constitu- 
tions were republican in form, and consistent with 
the Declaration of Independence. 

Even stanch old Ben Wade did not consider the 
matter worth fighting for in Colorado in view of the 
insignificance of the number of colored people in the 
Territory. But Sumner retorted with characteristic 
integrity of purpose, that we should fight for a 
principle if by the sacrifice of it only one man was 
injured in his liberties. " In other times," he ex- 
claimed, " the cry was ' No more slave States.' The 
cry of our time should be 1 No more States with in- 
equality of rights ! ' " 

After a protracted struggle Colorado and Nebraska 
were compelled to abandon the obnoxious distinction 
contained in their respective constitutions. It was 
not, however, until the short session that Nebraska 
got in, and this was achieved over the veto of the 
President. Colorado was less lucky, and her admis- 


sion was longer delayed. But the principle of 
colored suffrage as an indispensable prerequisite for 
admission into the Union was established by the 
precedent made in the case of the former. 

Sumner turned his attention likewise to the aboli- 
tion of the hateful distinction against color which dis- 
figured the election laws of the District of Columbia. 
Having become a member of the Committee on the 
District of Columbia, he pressed the justice of colored 
suffrage upon his associates until the Committee 
reported a bill prohibiting any exclusion from the 
right to vote on account of race and color. An edu- 
cational qualification was at first grafted by way of 
amendment upon the bill, but it was afterwards 
rejected in the Senate, owing, no doubt, to the grow- 
ing feeling that the suffrage must be without this 
qualification if the adoption of colored suffrage in 
the reconstruction of the South were to act as a 
barrier against the return of that section to power in 
the Union. 

This was at the long session of the Thirty-ninth 
Congress, which could not be relied upon for any 
radical handling of the colored-suffrage question 
in opposition to the President. The bill extending 
the elective franchise to colored citizens of the Dis- 
trict was, under the circumstances, allowed to go 
over to the short session, when the autumn election 
of 1866 should have occurred, and given the popular 
cue to dubious-minded Congressmen on the subject. 
The rapidly rising tide of public sentiment was flow- 
ing with accumulated force in but one direction, viz., 
toward a reorganization of the rebel States on the 
basis of universal suffrage as the only sure guaranty 



to the continued political ascendency of the North in 
the Union. Sumner was, therefore, wise to postpone 
action on the District Bill to the short session, when 
the voice of the Northern people should have been 
heard at the polls on reconstruction and colored 

On the first day of the short session he pressed the 
District Elective Franchise Bill to a vote in the 
Senate. Ten days afterward that body passed the 
measure without the educational qualification pro- 
vision. The next day it went promptly through the 
House. It was vetoed by the President, but was 
passed by both Houses over the veto, and so became 
a law as well as a guide for similar legislation in the 
reconstruction of the South. 

The Thirty-ninth Congress, having had its courage 
stiffened by the elections, was ready to inaugurate a 
policy of reconstruction of the rebel States in opposi- 
tion to that of the President. The House took the 
initiative by the passage of a bill " for the efficient 
government of the insurrectionary States," which, as 
it went to the Senate, contained no provision in 
regard to colored suffrage or to the exclusion of 

The consideration by the Senate of this bill de« 
veloped wide divergencies of views on the subject by 
the Republicans of that body. Some were satisfied 
with measures of protection simply, while others 
wanted to add to protection colored suffrage as an 
act of justice to the freedmen which would operate 
at once as a safeguard to themselves against the old 
slavemasters and the best possible protection to the 
North from the same class. 


This latter view finally prevailed with the Senate, 
which adopted a substitute bill, introducing the 
principle of colored suffrage into the South. This 
bill was rejected by the House because it did not 
exclude rebels from the right to vote. Without such 
a provision, it seemed to Thad. Stevens that the meas- 
ure instead of protecting would " open the flood- * 
gates of misery." The Senate, however, insisting on 
its substitute, the House receded from its position, 
and passed the Senate bill with an amendment 
which embodied to a limited extent the principle of 
exclusion of rebels. This action of the House was 
concurred in by the Senate. Vetoed by the President, 
the first Congressional Reconstruction Act passed 
both Houses over the negative of the executive and 
so became a law. 

Congress, influenced by its fears, had at length got 
itself in motion and nearly in line with Sumner's 
position on the Southern question, by requiring that in 
voting for delegates to conventions to frame constitu- 
tions for the rebel States there should be no exclusion 
on account of race or color, and that this principle 
of equal suffrage should be embodied in the instru- 
ments so framed as an indispensable qualification for 
the readmission of these States into the Union. 

In addition to colored suffrage as a factor in the 
reconstruction of the South, Sumner maintained that 
it was the duty of the national Government to guar- 
antee universal education for that section also, and 
a homestead for every head of a family of freedmen. 
He was, besides, in favor of a more rigid exclusion of 
the disloyal portion of the Southern population from 
participation in the government of the Southern 

3 86 


States than was provided for by the Reconstruction 
Act. He wanted a provision incorporated in the 
the Constitution of every Southern State, requiring 
its legislature to establish and support a system of 
free public schools, open to all without distinction of 
race or color. All these things were included in his 
scheme for the reconstruction of the South. All 
these things he tried again and again to have Con- 
gress include in its plan in that regard, but without 

Two other reconstruction measures, supplimen- 
tary to the Act passed March 2, 1867, went through 
the Fortieth Congress in quick succession. Each of 
these Acts like the first law encountered the objec- 
tions of President Johnson, and was thereupon 
passed over his veto by the two Houses of Congress. 
The contest between the National Executive and the 
National Legislature had meantime become very 
serious. The President seemed bent on balking 
Congress, and defeating the will of the North re- 
specting the reconstruction of the South. The veto 
power was in constant requisition by him. With 
this powerful weapon he ran atilt against every 
measure passed by Congress and bearing any sort of 
relation to the two races in the South. Not even the 
joint resolution, proposing the adoption of the Four- 
teenth Amendment by the States, was able to escape 
the Presidential negative. On this Amendment to 
the Constitution, the North may be said to have set 
its heart and hope. The attempt of the President to 
kill it excited against him, in consequence, through- 
out that section passionate indignation and fierce 
aversion. The people became furiously anti-Johnson. 


Congress, as the strife waxed between it and the 
President, became furiously anti-Johnson also. 

More than any member of either branch of Con- 
gress, with the possible exception of Thad. Stevens, 
was Sumner opposed to the President and his South- 
ern policy. And the President so understood it, and 
returned the hate of those great men measure for 
measure, heaping up and running over. From the 
steps of the White House, in a speech to a number 
of citizens who had gathered to pay their respects to 
him as the head of the nation on Washington's Birth- 
day of the year 1866, Mr. Johnson classed Sumner, 
Stevens, and Wendell Phillips with Jefferson Davis, 
Toombs, and Slidell. 

And Sumner's animadversions, it must be confes- 
sed, were hardly less personal or complimentary to 
the President, whose message on the Southern situa- 
tion, the Defender of Humanity, characterized on the 
floor of the Senate as " whitewashing," finding a 
parallel between the whitewashing message of Frank- 
lin Pierce, which covered up the crimes committed 
against free Kansas by the slave-power, and the 
whitewashing message of Andrew Johnson, which 
covered up the actual condition of things in the 
South. A year later the Massachusetts Senator, in 
the same place, did not hesitate to denounce the 
chief magistrate as "a bad man," who had exposed 
himself in " a condition of intoxication while taking 
the oath of office as Vice-President." His speeches 
were rated as " maudlin," and their author was ac- 
cused of degrading the country as it had never been 
before degraded. Nor were there wanting allusions 
to rumors " of pardons sold, or of personal corrup- 

3 88 


tion," nor yet the ominous invective that the Presi- 
dent was " the enemy of his country." 

The denunciation of the President " as the enemy 
of his country," naturally enough, produced a sensa- 
tion among the friends of the Administration in the 
Senate. The speaker was quickly called to order, 
first by Mr. McDougall, and afterwards, on its repeti- 
tion, by Mr. Doolittle. On the first point, the Chair 
[Mr. Anthony, of Rhode Island], declared the re- 
marks in order, and on the second point, the ques- 
tion being submitted to the Senate, the language was 
again sustained. All this was significant, the grave 
charge against the executive head of the nation, 
and the action of the presiding officer of the Senate 
and of that body itself in relation to it, highly signifi- 
cant of the impeachment scheme, which Congress 
was even then preparing for the overthrow of its 
hated adversary. 

Sumner's frank, fierce criticism of Andrew Johnson 
was strongly condemned by several of his Republican 
associates, like Fessenden and Sherman, on the 
ground that as a Senator he would be called to sit as 
one of the judges before whom the President would 
be tried, in the event of his impeachment. But Sum- 
ner held firmly to the complete immunity of the Sen- 
ate in that regard, and its duty to consider the facts 
and circumstances of the case in advance of impeach- 
ment. For himself he did not doubt that the Presi- 
dent was " a bad man," and that he should be 
" watched or removed." 

This was certainly the view which Congress took 
of the matter. So decidedly was Congress of the 
opinion that the President needed to be watched that 


it hardly dared to adjourn when once it assembled. 
If it passed an act to check his activity in one direc- 
tion, he was sure to break out in another. It was 
move and checkmate, checkmate and move, between 
them, according to a sort of perpetual motion. When 
Congress convened, Sumner begrudged the least frac- 
tion of time for adjournment, which could be added 
to the term of the session. On one occasion Mr. 
Grimes, of Iowa, moved the adjournment of the two 
Houses at eleven and a half o'clock on a given date, 
whereupon, Sumner suggested twelve o'clock in- 
stead, giving as his reason that he was not willing to 
leave one half hour to the President, within which he 
may take advantage of the absence of Congress and 
issue commissions which might run to the last of the 
next session. 

The President had announced his intention to 
" kick out of the Government " the opponents of his 
policy. And as he was a man with rather light ex- 
tremities in this respect, he soon set to work with a 
vengeance to prove himself as good as his word. The 
opponents of his policy began to feel in consequence 
an official vis a tergo as far and as fast as the Presi- 
dential heels could reach. By the Tenure of Office 
Act, Congress essayed to restrain to a limited extent 
this recalcitrant propensity of the President. To 
Sumner's mind the check imposed by the Act went 
not far enough. He proposed to include within its 
intendment all officers and agents, except clerks, 
and the vacation of all offices filled by the President 
or heads of Departments without the advice and 
consent of the Senate since July i, 1866, on the last 
day of the month of February of the year 1867. 



Sumner's amendment being altogether too drastic 
a dose of Congressional rule for Republican stomachs 
to take, for there had already developed in the party 
decided differences and symptoms of reaction in the 
contest with the Executive Department of the Gov- 
ernment, it was rejected by the Senate. But no 
sooner had the Office Tenure Act become law than 
the President, through the interpretation fastened 
upon it by his legal advisers, was able to evade its 
provisions. And so went on this duel between Con- 
gress and the President, growing fiercer and yet more 
fierce week after week and month after month, until 
exasperated to the highest degree of passion and 
resentment, Congress shot its last arrow, the impeach- 
ment, in the hope of destroying the one-man power 
of Andrew Johnson. Sumner sat as one of the judges 
of the impeached President, and voted him guilty of 
the high crimes and misdemeanors charged upon his 
head by the House of Representatives. Sumner filed 
a powerful statement of his reasons for so voting. 

Swiftly in the track of the Congressional recon- 
struction measures armed foes sprang up to shoot 
them to death. Violence and misgovernment arose all 
over the South. Tremendous scenes and saturnalias 
of blood and scoundrelism appeared in every State. 
Thieves and thugs established between them a reign 
of terror, the like of which history has rarely been 
called to shudder and weep over. 

Sectional and party selfishness and short-sighted- 
ness was the fatal rock on which the Congressional 
attempt to reconstruct the Southern States was 
wrecked. The President's policy had left out the 
negro and the North. The Congressional plan had 


ignored the South and included the negro as a second- 
ary consideration only. The terrible illiteracy of 
the new citizens, and their appalling poverty, this 
scheme did not grapple with or seek to reduce. Alas ! 
Congress did not perceive that the Southern serf- 
power, so justly dreaded by it, could not be over- 
thrown but by the general diffusion of intelligence 
and property among those who constitute the basis 
of that power. No plan or policy looking to the ulti- 
mate solution of the Southern problem will prosper 
which does not seek primarily the education and 
social well-being of the laboring classes of that sec- 
tion. And this, we think, is what Sumner had in his 
mind when he proposed a public school system for 
the South, open to all without distinction of race and 
color, and a homestead for the head of every family 
of freedmen. 



Between the two schools of political thought 
which have arisen under the American Constitution, 
viz., the State Rights and the Nationalist, Sumner 
held all his life firmly to the principles of the latter. 
In his published works the word " national " is habit- 
ually used instead of " federal " which carries with it 
the idea of many independent and local centres of 
government, rather than that of one supreme whole 
and authority which belongs to the other. That unity 
and power was the grand object of attainment of the 
framers of the Constitution, he had never a doubt. 
That the Republic had missed the aim of its found- 
ers in this regard was owing, he declared, to the 
fact that slavery, with its barbarisms and pretensions, 
had, in its long strife with freedom, taken refuge 
behind the bulwarks of the States, and, thus in- 
trenched, had conducted its systematic and decen- 
tralizing operations against the unity and power of 
the nation. When the combatant fell, Sumner was 
desirous to demolish in one respect the fortification 
behind which it had been able to work such mischief 
to mankind, and to defeat the purpose of the Repub- 
lic at the same time. 

And this, while leaving untouched many things 
properly appertaining to local police, he believed 
might be accomplished by placing the great prin- 


ciples and interests of national unity and human 
rights under central guardianship to the end that 
through all the parts there might be uniformity and 
identity in those regards. Or, as he put it in a lecture 
in New York, in 1867 : " As in the nation there can 
be but one sovereignty, so there can be but one citi- 
zenship. The unity of sovereignty finds its counter- 
part and complement in the unity of citizenship, and 
the two together are the tokens of a united people. 
Thus are the essential conditions of national life all 
resolved into three — one sovereignty, one citizenship, one 

It was in pursuance of this sublime idea that he, 
in February, 1869, when the Senate had under con- 
sideration a joint resolution from the House propos- 
ing the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, 
offered a bill as a substitute, and vindicated the 
powers of Congress in the premises, on the principle 
that anything for Human Rights is constitutional. 
"There can be no State Rights against Human 
Rights," he exclaimed: "and this is the supreme law 
of the land, anything in the Constitution or laws of 
any State to the contrary notwithstanding." 

Two years later, speaking in the Senate in support 
of the " Force Bill," he expressed himself again on 
this head and in this wise : " The nation will not 
enter the State, except for the safeguard of rights 
national in character, and then only like the sunshine, 
for the equal good of all. Here is a just centralism, 
here is a generous imperialism. Shunning with 
patriotic care that injurious centralism, and that fatal 
imperialism, which have been the nemesis of France, 
I hail that other centralism which supplies an equal 



protection to every citizen, and that other imperial- 
ism which makes Equal Rights the supreme law, to be 
maintained by the national arm in all parts of the 

Any man who follows an object with the earnest- 
ness and persistency with which Sumner pursued the 
one great purpose of his life is apt to be viewed by 
his contemporaries as a man of one idea. This was 
true in the case of Sumner who was looked upon by 
many in that light. But the criticism had for him no 
terrors. " Whoever does anything with his whole 
heart," said he with admirable sense, at the Republi- 
can State Convention of Massachusetts, held at Wor- 
cester, September 8, 1869, and which nominated him 
for his fourth term in the Senate; " whoever does any- 
thing with his whole heart makes it for the time his 
one idea. Every discoverer, every inventor, every 
poet, every artist, every orator, every general, every 
statesman is absorbed in his work, and he succeeds 
just in proportion as for the time it becomes his one 

If Sumner was eminently a man of one idea in this 
fine way, he was by no means so in that other which 
implies an incapacity for receiving a plurality of 
noble ideas. All the best and most advanced 
thoughts of the age for the betterment of the human 
family found welcome in the room of his capacious 
mind, aid and comfort in his all-embracing sympa- 
thies. Writing in May, 1872, to the Convention of 
the Massachusetts Labor Union, he evinced his inter- 
est in the movement for the reduction of the hours of 
work in words as happy as they are wise. The Eight- 
Hour Law he apprehended to be " especially valuable, 


because it promises more time for education and 
general improvement. If the experiment is success- 
ful in this respect, I shall be less curious on the ques- 
tion of pecuniary profit and loss, for, to my mind, the 
education of the human family is above dollars and 

He took an early and enlightened interest in the 
the subject of Civil Service Reform, the refunding of 
the national debt, and the resumption of specie pay- 
ments by the Government, the revision of the tariff 
and reduction of duties. Financial reconstruction 
after the war, which he placed in importance and the 
order of accomplishment second only to political 
reconstruction, he clearly perceived required two 
things at least to make it successful, viz., the main- 
tenance of the national credit and the reduction of 
the burdens of taxation. And these he always 
insisted should never be forgotten in any measures 
looking to this grand economic achievement. 

The Republican Party found in Sumner constant 
and earnest support where principles — ideas — were 
put forward and exalted by it. But when men waxed 
stronger than they in its councils and conduct, he was 
too true to blink at the change for the sake of merely 
personal and political ends. He promptly raised the 
voice of remonstrance and rebuke, refused to hold 
his peace where the offender was no less a personage 
than the chosen chief of the party and of the nation, 
as in the case of President Grant. 

These two great men had unhappily no just appre- 
ciation of each other. The man of action and the 
man of thought are not apt to possess a superfluity 
of affection or appreciation the one for the other. 

39 6 


Sumner, no doubt, honestly believed that Grant knew 
nothing but war; and Grant as honestly supposed 
that Sumner had done nothing but talk. But in their 
quarrel an impartial observer must needs adjudge 
Grant very much to blame, much more so than was 
his illustrious antagonist, who upheld the declining 
influence of principles and ideas as against the 
extraordinary personalism and assumptions of the 
one-man power which signalized the administration 
of Grant. 

The civil career of the great general, his best friends 
must confess, was not a brilliant success. His mili- 
tary training and notions of authority and obedience 
were not applicable to the office of President. They 
qualified him admirably to control the operations of 
war, but not to direct those of peace. He could lead 
armies better than he was able to lead a political 
party or manage the affairs of an empire. 

Sumner shivered his first lance against the Presi- 
dent on the occasion of his attempt to annex San 
Domingo to the United States. Grant had set his 
heart on the success of this scheme; had used his 
personal and official solicitation to secure its adoption 
by Congress, had made frequent visits to the capitol 
for the purpose, had even called on Sumner to enlist 
his personal influence in its behalf. But Sumner, for 
reasons sufficient and honorable, was immovably 
opposed to the scheme, and in two powerful speeches 
in the Senate thoroughly and sternly exposed the 
irregular, unworthy, and violent means and methods 
by which it was being pushed upon the people of 
San Domingo, while at the same time the independ- 
ence of Hayti was menaced thereby. 



Grant would not forgive Sumner for the part 
played by him toward defeating this pet international 
venture of the administration, nor would his support- 
ers in the Senate. The military instincts and train- 
ing of the President treated Sumner's opposition as 
an act of mutiny to his authority, and for which the 
great culprit must needs be punished as an example 
to others of a like disposition. Accordingly Sumner's 
friend, J. Lothrop Motley, American Minister to 
Great Britain, was recalled, and later Sumner himself 
was degraded from the chairmanship of the Foreign 
Relations Committee of the Senate. 

But if Sumner's conduct in the San Domingo busi- 
ness failed to please the administration, it did not fail 
to please the Republic of Hayti, who, grateful to the 
defender of her independence, presented him with a 
gold medal in token of her sense of the value of the 
generous service rendered to her as a black nation. 
Believing that the spirit, if not the letter, of the Con- 
stitution disabled him from accepting the testimonial, 
Sumner so apprized the Haytian Government, which 
thereupon presented the medal to the Commonwealth 
of Massachusetts. It was deposited among similar 
treasures in the State Library, where it may still be 
seen. On May 31, 1872, Sumner delivered in the 
Senate, a philippic, which produced a sensation at the 
time. Its title, " Republicanism vs. Grantism," indi- 
cates its character. The speech was an elaborate and 
fiercely eloquent exposure of the sins of omission and 
of commission of the first administration of President 
Grant. Every one of those sins, and they were many 
and serious, Sumner, with avenging pen, had written 
in the pages of his philippic, had written them so 



large, and touched them with such harsh and vivid 
passion, as to make an impression upon the country 
of the decline of political virtue, and of the rise and 
spread of official incapacity, selfishness, and miscon- 
duct, which was not soon forgotten by it. 

In the Presidential canvass which followed, Sumner 
not only refused to support General Grant for reelec- 
tion, but threw his influence on the side of Greeley and 
the Liberal Republican revolt. The claims of party, 
and the " sacramental unction of a regular nomina- 
tion," were never able, with him, to override the right 
of individual judgment, to nullify the rule of con- 
science and principle. He was essentially a free- 
lance, an independent in politics, the first great 
Mugwump of Massachusetts. Much perplexed as to 
the course they ought to take in the election, Sum- 
ner's counsel was sought by the colored people. He 
frankly apprized them of his own inability to support 
Grant, and advised them to vote for Horace Greeley. 
Sumner's watchword for the campaign was: " The 
unity of the Republic and Equal Rights with Recon- 

One of the interesting incidents of the canvass was 
an open letter from James G. Blaine to Mr. Sumner, 
arraigning him as recreant to party and principle, 
and Sumner's response to the same. Finding him- 
self, the reply caustically informed Mr. Blaine, " with 
so many others devoted to the cause I have always 
served that I had not missed you until you hastened 
to report absence." Blaine taunted Sumner with the 
ontrage which he had suffered at the hands of Pres- 
ton S. Brooks. Nast, in a clever caricature in Har- 
per's Weekly, had made the assault do duty for the 


Republican party and against Mr. Sumner and the 
Liberal Republican movement also. " Never while a 
sufferer," so ran on this particular head Sumner's 
reply to the open letter of Mr. Blaine ; " never, while 
a sufferer, did anybody hear me speak of him [Brooks] 
in unkindness; and now after the lapse of more than 
half a generation, I will not unite with you in drag- 
ging him from the grave where he sleeps to aggra- 
vate the passions of a political conflict, and arrest the 
longing for concord." 

" Nothing in hate," he said later in the campaign. 
" Nothing in vengeance. Nothing in passion. I am 
for gentleness. I am for a velvet glove ; but for a 
while I wish the hand of iron." On the assembling 
of Congress in December, he introduced a bill to 
prohibit the placing of the " names of battles with 
fellow-citizens on the army register or the regimental 
colors of the United States." This was no new 
thought with Sumner. For as early as^the spring of 
1862 he introduced into the Senate a resolution 
against inscribing the names of victories on the 
regimental colors of the Union forces. 

Nevertheless, there forthwith arose an outcry of 
wrath against him, as wanting in patriotism and 
other partisan absurdities because of the share taken 
by him in the campaign then just closed. Even 
Massachusetts joined angrily in the Republican hue 
and cry against her Bayard who had ever been in 
her service and that of freedom's, sans peur et sans 
reproche. But, as in other days, the frowns of friends, 
the passions of party, the clamor of the populace, 
could not move him from steadfast principles and 
fixed convictions of right. Nothing for vengeance ; 



everything for justice was his motto as a statesman. It 
was graven on his heart, bound as a frontlet upon 
his whole public career. Therefore did he seek re- 
conciliation by the way of liberty and equality. 
Therefore was he in favor of amnesty and equal 
rights going together hand in hand, that the dis- 
abilities of the former slave and those of the former 
master should be removed by one act of forgiveness 
and protection. 

In his reply to the letter of Mr. Blaine, Mr. Sumner 
had reminded that gentleman of the fate of the Sup- 
plementary Civil Rights Bill in a Congress controlled 
by large Republican majorities in both Houses, 
though urged by him, Sumner, almost daily upon its 
attention. The passage of this bill, which opened to 
all, without distinction of color, inns, juries, schools, 
public conveyances, and cemeteries, was with Sum- 
ner as the very apple of his eye. He made two 
admirable speeches in support of the measure. In 
# the course of the one delivered in January, 1872, he 
quoted with effect that fine sentence of Rousseau's, 
that " It is precisely because the force of things tends 
always to destroy equality that the force of legisla- 
tion should always tend to maintain it." 

On January 27, 1874, he reintroduced his bill and 
made a last appeal for its passage. There was a 
noticeable insistency, an urgency, about his speech 
and manner on this occasion. What the Senate would 
do for equality he would have it do quickly. But with 
all his earnestness there was also a noticeable calm- 
ness, a softening of his austere temper, and, even for 
him, an unwonted solemnity and grandeur of tone. 
Those powerful weapons of his in earlier days, indig- 


nation and invective, he had laid aside for those 
gentler ones, sweet persuasion and appeal. 

" I hope my friend [Senator Edmunds] instead of 
criticism," said Sumner solemnly, almost sweetly, in 
the course of his speech, " will give that generous 
support which so well becomes him. He sees full 
well that, until this great question is completely set- 
tled, the results of the war are not secured, nor is 
this delicate and sensitive subject banished from 
these halls. Sir, my desire, the darling desire, if I 
may say so, of my soul, at this moment is to close 
forever this question so that it shall never again in- 
trude into these chambers — so that hereafter in all 
our legislation, there shall be no such word as 1 black ' 
or * white,' but that we shall speak only of citizens 
and of men. Is that an aspiration worthy of a Sen- 
ator? Is such an aspiration any ground for taunt 
from the Senator from Vermont ?" 

Negro citizenship and suffrage, Sumner had cham- 
pioned on high ground, never to save the political 
power of a party or a section, but as a supreme duty 
which the Republic owed to each of its children, to 
the weakest because of their weakness. Equality 
before the law is, indeed, the only defense which 
poverty has against property in civilized society. 
Without it monopoly becomes crowned king, and 
labor crouching slave or serf. 

Well did Sumner understand this truth — under- 
stand that wrong has a fatal gift of metamorphosis — 
ability to change form, color, without losing its 
identity and character. It had shed in America 
African slavery. It would reappear as African serf- 
dom, unless put in the way of certain and utter ex- 



tinction. Equality before the law, he had the sagacity 
to perceive, could alone avert such a calamity, con- 
summate so vast a good. Strenuously, he toiled to 
make it everywhere a conquering force, the master- 
principle in the political and social life of America. 

As his years increased, so grew his passion for 
justice and equality. He never wearied of sowing 
and resowing the statutes of the nation, and the 
mind of the people with the grand ideas of the 
Declaration of Independence, that American Magna 
Charta and store-house of equality. This entire 
absorption in one lofty purpose lent him a singular 
aloofness and isolation in the politics of the times. 

He was not like other political leaders. He laid 
stress on the ethical side to statesmanship, they em- 
phasized the economical. He, all his life long, was 
chiefly concerned about the rights of persons, they, 
about the rights of property. Such a soul could not 
be a partisan. Party with him was an instrument 
and nothing else. As long as it proved efficient, sub- 
servient to justice and truth, he gave it his hearty 
support. To others, on the contrary, party was as 
much of an end as it was an instrument. 

In such circumstances moral ideas cannot main- 
tain their supremacy in political bodies. The lust of 
power will push them from the party throne and as- 
sume the crown instead. It was, therefore, a fore- 
gone conclusion that Sumner and his party should 
quarrel. The extraordinary personalism and assump- 
tions of Grant's first administration provided the 
casus belli. The breach so made steadily widened 
between Sumner and the leaders of the Republican 


Sumner's imposing figure grew thenceforth more 
distant and companionless. Marital unhappiness 
added during these last years to the gloom which 
was settling upon his life. On October 17, 1866, he 
was married to Mrs. Alice Hooper (n/e Mason), of 
Boston. They did not live long together, and he was 
divorced from her, May 10, 1873. This domestic in- - 
felicity ate harpy-like into his proud heart. In the 
summer of 1872 his health gave decided symptoms of 
decline. The injury which his constitution had suf- 
fered from the assault of Brooks presently developed 
new complications, and renewed all the old bodily 
anguish. A temper, always austere and imperious, 
was doubtless not mended by this harassing combi- 
nation of troubles. Alone, in this extremity, he trod 
the wine-press of bitter sorrows. 

He no longer had a party to lean on. Massachu- 
setts, alas ! had joined the harsh, ungrateful w^>rld, 
had turned in anger and with cruel words from her 
great-hearted son. Her Legislature had passed a 
resolution of censure of him because of his Battle- 
flag Bill in the Senate, already referred to. That 
wretched act was, however, tardily rescinded and a 
committee sent to Washington in the winter of 1874 
to communicate the grateful tidings to Mr. Sumner. 

No woman's hand administered to him in the crisis 
of his need. He had nothing but his cause. And to 
this he clung with the pathos and passion of a grand 
and solitary spirit. Now the grasshopper became a 
burden, and the once stalwart limbs could not carry 
him with the old-time ease and regularity to his seat 
in the Senate. His chair became frequently vacant. 
An overpowering weariness and weakness were set- 



tling upon the dying statesman. Still his thoughts 
hovered around their one paramount object. Like 
as the eyes of a mother, about to die, are turned and 
fixed on a darling child, so turned his thoughts to 
the struggling cause of human botherhood and equal- 
ity. Almost his last words were — " Take care of my 
Civil Rights Bill." For this the great soul would 
toil yet a little while. But it was otherwise decreed, 
and the illustrious Defender of Humanity passed 
away March n, 1874, at his home in Washington, 
leaving to his country and to mankind, as a glorious 
heritage, the moral grandeur of his character and 


Adams, Charles Francis, 70, 163, 183, 190, 195, 197, 201, 202 

Adams, John, 113. 

Adams, John Quincy, 26, 131, 132, 133, 134, 170, 171, 172, 176, 

Advertiser, The Boston, 1 22, 1 36, 297, 298. 

Alderson, Baron, 70. 

Allen, Charles, 194, 195. 

Allen, of Rhode Island, 282. 

Allston, Washington, 98, 167. 

American Jurht, 36, 51. 

American Monthly Review, 36. 

Andrew, John A., 172, 183, 263, 324, 325, 326, 327, 343. 

Anthony, Henry B., 388. 

Appleton, Nathan, 177, 178. 

Arnold, Matthew, 109. 

Ashmun, John H., 31. 

Atlantic Monthly, The, 366, 367. 

Attucks, Crispus, 352. 

Baltimore Mob, The, 329, 330. 
Bancroft, George, 48, 98. 
" Barbarism of Slavery," 310-316. 
Bates, Attorney-General, 335, 355. 
Beckwith, Rev. George C, 233. 
Bell, John, 252. 

Benjamin, Judah P., 246, 250, 251, 252, 253, 257, 258. 

Benton, Thomas H., 303. 

Biddle, Nicholas, 45. 

Bingham, John A., 277. 

Birney, James G., 310. 

Black Code of District of Columbia, 348. 

Black, E. J., 135. 

" Blaine Amendment," 379, 380, 381. 


Blaine, James G., 379, 398, 399, 400. 

Blair, Francis P., 268, 293. 

Blair, Montgomery, 366. 

Blyden, Edward W., 343. 

Booth, J. Wilkes, 363. 

Boutwell, George S., 209. 

Bowditch, William I., 163, 243. 

Bowdoin Prizes, 22, 36, 37. 

Breckinridge, J. C, 301, 313. 

Bridgman, Laura, 98. 

Bright, Jesse D., 253, 254, 255, 258. 

Brooks, Preston S., 279, 280, 281, 283, 284, 285, 291, 314, 398, 

399» 403. 
Brougham, Henry, 71, 72. 
Brown, John, 306, 308, 320. 
Browne, John W., 40. 
Browne, Sir Thomas, 115. 
Brown-Sequard, Dr., 299. 
Buchanan, James, 151, 301, 323, 324, 325, 328. 
Buller, Charles, 77. 
Burke, Edmund, 19, 270. 
Burlingame, Anson, 287, 288, 294, 317. 
Burns, Anthony, 230, 232, 245. 
Burritt, Elihu, 212. 

Butler, A. P., 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 269, 271, 272, 273, 274, 

280, 281, 286. 
Butler, Benjamin F., 243, 335. 

Calhoun, John C, 45, 46, 123, 124, 125, 126, 149, 150, 151, 155, 
156, 157, 158, 160, 204, 214, 216, 223, 224, 225, 303, 304, 311. 
Cameron, Simon, 345. 
Campbell, Lewis D., 283, 288. 
Carlisle, Lady, 92. 
Carlyle, Thomas, 71. 
Cass, Lewis, 79, 121, 193, 196, 282. 
Causin, of Maryland, 135. 
Chandler, Peleg W., 289. 
Charming, Professor Edward T, 298. 

Channing, William Ellery, 54, 98, 120, 125, 126, 167, 168, 169, 

Chantry, Sir Francis, 89. 
Chapman, Maria Weston, 136. 
Charleston Convention 307, 308. 

Chase, Salmon P., 202, 212, 215, 226,241,242,251,252,310, 
361, 37i, 372. 



Chautauqua Democrat, 313-315. 
Chestnut, J., 315, 316. 
Choate, Rufus, 26, 39. 
Claflin, William, 296, 325. 
Clay, C. C, 236. 

Clay, Henry, 45,46, 214, 216, 223. 

Cleveland, Henry R., 49, 105. 

Coastwise Slave-Trade, Abolition of, 350. 

Cobb, Howell, 283, 321. 

Colfax, Schuyler, 277. 

Colored Seamen, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142. 

Colored Suffrage, 368-391. 

Colored Troops, 353, 354, 355. 

Cooper, J. Fenimore, 88. 

Cooper, of Pennsylvania, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 

254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259. 
Courier and Enquirer, New York, 292. 
Crawford, Thomas, 87, 88, 99. 
"Creole," The, 123-129. 
Crummell, Alexander, 343. 
Curry, of Alabama, 314. 
Cushing, Luther S., 51. 
Cushman, Henry W., 209. 

Dana, Richard H., Jr., 296. 

David, Pierre Jean, 89. 

Davis, Henry Winter, 368, 378. 

Davis, Jefferson, 236, 314,321, 327,387. 

Dawson, of Louisiana, 135. 

Dayton, W. L., 294, 301. 

De Gerando, Baron, 68. 

Denman, Lord, 70. 

Devens, Charles, 330. 

Dexter, Franklin, 26. 

Dixon, A, 236. 

Dodge, of Wisconsin, 282. 

Doolittle, James R., 365, 388. 

Douglas, Stephen A., 224, 225, 268, 271, 272, 273,274, 275,276, 

281, 303, 304, 305, 307, 308, 331. 
Douglass, Frederick, 310. 
Dred Scott, Case of, 302. 
Dunlap, Andrew, 51. 

Edmunds, George S., 401. 
Edmundson, Henry A., 281, 283, 284, 



Eight Hour Law, 394, 395. 
Emerson, Benjamin, 132. 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 98, 290. 
Erskine, 39. 

Everett Edward, 17, 70, 79, 125, 126, 296, 323, 324. 

Felton, C. C, 48, 49, 85, 98, 105, 106, 107, 289, 290. 

Fessenden, William Pitt, 226, 354,365,379, 388. 

Fillmore, Millard, 206, 207, 214. 

Fitzwilliam, Lord, 72, 73, 74, 76. 

" Five of Clubs," 49. 

Foelix, J. J. G., 64. 

Follett, Sir William W.,71. 

Foot, Solomon, 256, 257, 315. 

Foster, Lafayette S., 357. 

Foster, Stephen S., 310. 

Fox Hunt, An English, 74, 75. 

Franklin, Benjamin, 175. 

Fremont, John C, 294, 301, 335. 

Fugitive Slave Law, 205-207. 

Fugitive Slave Laws, Abolition of, 357, 358. 

Furness, James T., 294. 

Furness, Rev. W. H„ 294, 

Galig7iani 's Messenger, 79. 
Gardner, Henry J., 295. 

Garrison, William Lloyd, 15, 55, 114,119, 144, 146, 217, 310. 
" Garrison, William Lloyd, Life of," 310. 
Giddings, Joshua R., 134, 135, 136, 195, 212, 226. 
Globe, Congressional, 245, 312, 314. 
Gordon, Nathaniel, 345. 

Grant, U. S., 360, 363, 395, 396, 397, 398, 402. 
Gray, John C, 190. 
Greeley, Horace, 398. 
Green, George W., 84, 86. 

Greenleaf, Simon, 31,34, 38, 39, 44, 48, 50, 51, 59, 60, 79, 85, 98. 

Greenough, Horatio, 87, 88, 89. 

Greenwood, of Arkansas, 283. 

Grimes, of Iowa, 389. 

Grote, George, 71. 

Guizot, 62, 63. 

Gwin, William M., 248. 

Hale, John P., 215, 242, 243, 310. 
Hall, Robert, 116, 


Hallam, Henry, ft, 

Hamlin, Hannibal, 215. 

Hammond, J., 314. 

Harper's Ferry, 306. 

Harper's Weekly, 398. 

Harvey, Jacob, 127. 

Hastings, Warren, 270. 

Hawley, Joseph R., 233. 

Hayti, Republic of, 342, 343, 344, 396, 397. 

Hendricks, Thomas H., 350. 

Herald, New York, 320. 

Hickman, John, 315. 

Hillard, George S., 48, 49, 51, 55, 60, 66, 68, 71, 72, 73, 74, 76, 

80, 81, 85, 89, 97, 119, 120, 172. 
Hoar, Samuel, 140, 141, 195. 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 290. 
Hooper, Alice, 403. 

Howe, Dr. S. G., 98, 101, 105, 107, 162, 172, 183, 184, 185. 

Hubbard, Henry, 140, 141. 

Hudson, Charles, 135. 

Humboldt, 91. 

Hunter, R. T. M., 219, 314. 

Huntington, F. D., 295, 296. 

Ingham, Robert, 79, 92. 

Jackson, Andrew, 45. 
Jay, John, 142. 

efferson, Thomas, 175, 239. 

effrey, Sir Francis, 71, 72. 

ohnson, Andrew, 371, 372, 373, 374, 376, 377, 378, 381, 382, 
384, 385. 386, 387, 388, 389, 390. 
Johnson, J. D., 343. 
Johnson, Samuel, ill. 
Jones, G. W., 235, 236. 
Jones, Walter, 44. 

Keith, Lawrence M., 281, 283, 284, 287, 314. 

Kemble, Fanny, 42. 
Kent, Chancellor, 41, 122. 
Key, Francis Scott, 44. 
King, Preston, 315. 

Lafayette, Lecture on, 323* 
Lamar, L. Q. C, 314. 


Landor, Walter Savage, 71. 
Lawrence, Amos, 294. 
Law Reporter, 108. 
Lee, Robert E., 360. 
Leavitt, Joshua, 195. 
Liberator, The, 55, 119, 146. 
Liberia, Republic of, 342, 343, 344. 
Liberty Bell, The, 136. 

Lieber, Francis, 53, 54, 56, 58, 59, 66, 78, no, 133. 

Lincoln, Abraham, 304, 306, 307, 319, 320, 321, 323, 328, 329, 

33i> 332, 333, 334, 335, 33°, 338, 342, 345, 346, 347, 351, 352, 

360, 361, 362, 363, 366, 370, 371. 
Livermore, Rev. A. A., 37. 

Longfellow, Henry W., 49, 70, 85, 98, 105, 211, 294, 296. 

Louis, St., 1 16. 

Loring, Edward Greeley, 48. 

Lovejoy, Elijah P., 120. 

Lovejoy, J. C., 195. 

Lowell, James Russell, 136, 215. 

Lyons, Lord, 340. 

Macaulay, T. B., 71 . 
Macready, William C, 98. 
Mallory, Stephen R., 236. 
Mann, Horace, 48, 98, 99. 
Marshall, Chief Justice John, 43, 44. 
Martineau, Harriet, 289. 

Mason, James M., 236, 237, 238, 240, 241, 248, 249, 268, 273, 

274, 276, 281, 282, 309, 314, 339, 341. 
McLean, John, 43. 
McDougall, U. S. Senator, 388. 
McDuffte, George, 56. 
Metternich, Prince, 91. 
Mexican War, 179--183. 
Milnes, R. Moncton (Lord Houghton), 100. 
Milton, John, 37. 
Milton, Lord, 74, 75. 

Missouri Compromise, Repeal of, 224-330. 

Mittermaier, Professor, 91. 

Montagu, Mrs. Basil, 92. 

Morgan, of New York, 280. 

Morpeth, Lord, 79, 136. 

Morris, Robert, 220. 

Motley, J. Lothrop, 70, 397. 

Murray, of New York, 280. 



Nasby, Petroleum V., 362, 363. 

Nast, Thomas, 398. " 

Norris, Moses, 247, 253, 255,256. 

Osgood, Rev. Samuel, 38. 
Otis, Harrison Gray, 26. 

Palazzuola, Convent of, 85. 
Palfrey, John G., 172, 190. 
Parke, Baron, 70. 
Parker, Theodore, 99. 
Penn, William, 116. 
Pennington, A. C. M., 283. 
Perkins, J. C, 51, 52. 
Peters, Richard, 42, 104. 
Pettit, John, 236, 237. 

Phillips, Wendell, 22, 98, 105, 120, 144, 165, 216, 217, 310, 387. 

Pickering, John, 167. 

Pickering Reports, 51. 

Pierce, Carlos, 296. 

Pierce, Edward L„ 51. 

Pierpont, John, 26. 

Pillsbury, Parker, 310. 

Plato, 1 16. 

Polk, James K., 180, 181. 

Powers, Hiram, 87. 

Prescott, William H., 77, 98, 105. 

Quincy, Josiah, 12, 26, 33, 34, 60, 76, 88, 172, 294, 295, 296 

Rand, Benjamin, 38. 

Ranke, Professor Leopold Von, 91. 

Rantoul, Robert, Jr., 209, 215. 

Raumer, Professor Von, 91. 

Raynor, Kenneth, 135. 

P ice, Alexander H., 294, 296. 

R olfe, Robert M., 71. 

R jssi, Count, 68. 

Rousseau, J. J., 400. 

Salem, Peter, 352. 

Sanborn, Frank B., 308, 309. 

Stan Domingo, Republic of, 396, 397. 

Saulsbury, of Delaware, 343, 344, 

tfavigny, Friedrich Karl, 91, 92. 



Schiller, 167. 

Senior, Nassau W., 72. 

Sevvall, Samuel E., 15, 16, 55, 56, 119. 

Seward, William H., 202, 214, 226, 229, 245, 277, 282, 283, 31a, 

315,321, 328, 358. 
Shattuck, Daniel, 243. 
Shaw, Robert G., 353. 

Sherman, John, 317, 349, 357, 358, 365, 379, 388. 
Sherman, W. T., 360. 
Sidney, Sir Philip, 117. 
Simonton, James W., 281. 
Sismondi, 68. 

Slavery Agitation, 146-161. 

Slavery in District of Columbia, Abolition of, 347. 

Slave-Trade, 121, 122, 123. 

Slidell, John, 281, 339, 341, 387. 

Smith Brothers, Case of, 361, 362, 363. 

Smith, Gerritt, 226. 

Smith, Sidney, 72. 

Sparks, Jared, 98, 296. 

Spinner, Travis, 288. 

Stanley, Edward, 351. 

Stanton, Edwin M., 353. 

Star, The, 231. 

Stearns, Jonathan F., 28, 38. 

Stevens, Thaddeus, 353, 376, 379, 381, 387. 

Story, Joseph, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38, 39- 4<>, 43> 44, 48, $0,60,66, 

67, 69, 78, 91, 98, 104, 122, 167. 
Story, William W., 32, 33, 35, 96, 97. 
Street Railroads of District of Columbia, 359, 360. 
Stuart, of Michigan, 246, 247. 

Sumner, Charles, birth and ancestry, 9-1 1 ; father and fam- 
ily, 12-18; childhood, youth, and early character, 18-26; 
choice of a profession and ideal of a lawyer, 29, 30, 31 ; at 
the Dane Law School, 31-38 ; in a lawyer's office, 38 ; visits 
Washington, 40-46 ; first glimpse of slavery, 47 ; at the 
.bar, 48 ; " Five of Clubs," 49 ; instructor at the Law School, 
50; magazine and editorial work, 51; friendship with Dr. 
Lieber, 53, 54; early interest in the peace question, 54, 55; 
early interest in the anti-slavery movement, 55, 56; per- 
sonal appearance in early manhood, 57, 58 ; in love with 
Europa, 58, 59 ; first visit, 60-63 * m Paris, 63-69 ; in Eng- 
land, 70-80; Paris again, 80; sunny Italy, 81-89; death of 
his father, 89-90 ; in Germany, 90-92 ; again in England, 
and return to America, 92 ; resumes the practice of his 



profession, 94-97; a goodly company, 97-99; Crawford's 
Orpheus, 99; Horace Mann, 99; capital punishment and 
prison reform, 100, 101 ; Dr. Howe's estimate of him, 101 ; 
depression and overwork, 101-108; dangerous illness, 108, 
109; death of a favorite sister, 109 ; amiability and sweet- 
ness of character in early manhood, 109, 110; loves all 
mankind, m, 112; "The True Grandeur of Nations," 112- 
118; the slave-trade and right of search, 121, 122, 123; 
the " Creole " case, 123, 129; Webster and Channing, 130; 
right of petition and John Quincy Adams, 131-134; the 
bullying of the South in Congress, 134-136; the Constitu- 
tion does not recognize property in men, 136; the people of 
the free States and slavery, 136-138 ; colored seamen, 138- 
141 ; interest in the subject, 141-142 : condemns caste preju- 
dice byword and deed, 142-144; first speech against slav- 
ery, 162-166; "The Scholar, The Jurist, The Artist, The 
Philanthropist," 1 67-1 71 ; tries to graft anti-slavery principles 
on the Whig party, 171-178 ; Rober t C. Winthrop and the 
Mexican War, 178-183; nominated for Congress, but de- 
clines to run, 183-184 ; minors and the Mexican War, 185- 
186; "White Slavery in the Barbary States," 186-187; 
seeks to establish an anti-slavery test for candidates for the 
Presidency, 189-192 ; leaves the Whig party and helps to 
organize the Free Soil party, 193-197 ; earnestness as an 
anti-slavery reformer, 199-200 ; nominated a second time for 
Congress, 200-201 ; estimates of his anti-slavery labors by 
C. F. Adams, 201-202 ; qualifications for political leadership, 
202-203; opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, 205- 
207; election to the U. S. Senate, 208-213; in that "iron 
and marble body," 214-215 ; first great speech against slav- 
ery, 216-219; attacks color prejudice in the public schools 
of Boston, 220 ; attacks slavery on sundry occasions, 220- 
222; repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 226-229; 
Anthony Burns, 230-231; encounters in Washington 
increasing malignity and intolerance, 231-233; assailed by rep- 
resentatives of the slave-power in debate, 235-244 ; struggling 
for the floor, 245-259 ; the Republican party, 262-265 ; 
" Crime against Kansas," 267-273 ; Stephen A. Douglas, 
274-276; in danger, 277-278; assaulted in the Senate, 279- 
292 ; injuries and invalidism, 292-299 ; sharp passage with 
James M. Mason, 308-309 ; " The Barbarism of Slavery," 
310-316; menaces, 316-318; no more concessions to slav- 
ery, 320-322 ; crisis and compromise, 323-325 ; correspond- 
ence with Governor Andrew, 325-328 ; narrow escape in 
Baltimore, 329-330; he and Lincoln compared, 331-335; 




appeals to the people for a more thorough-going anti-slavery 
policy in suppressing the Rebellion, 336-338 ; chairman of 
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and the " Trent " 
case, 338-342; Hayti and Liberia, 342-343; suppression of 
the slave-trade, 344-345 ; emancipation in the District of 
Columbia, 345-347 ; black code of the District of Columbia, 
348 ; coastwise slave-trade, 349-350 ; thorn in the side of 
the administration, 350-351 ; colored troops, 352-353; dis- 
crimination in the army on account of color, 354-355 ; repeal 
of Fugitive Slave Laws, 357-358; caste distinction on the 
street railways of the District of Columbia 359-360; second 
term for Lincoln, 361 ; last conference with that great man, 
361-363 ; eulogy on the same, 363 ; reconstruction and colored 
suffrage, 364-371 ; Andrew Johnson, 371-378; the " Blaine 
Amendment," 379-381 ; colored suffrage in Colorado and 
Nebraska, 381-383 ; struggle between Congress and Pres- 
ident Johnson, 384-390 ; public school system and homestead 
proposition for the South, 391 ; unity and power the 
grand object of the founders of the Republic, 392- 
394; the man of one idea, 394; the eight hour move- 
ment, 394-395 ; civil service and tariff reforms, 395 ; Pres- 
ident Grant, 395-398; Liberal Republican revolt, 398; James 
G. Blaine, 398-399 ; Battle Flag Bill, 399 ; Supplimentary 
Civil Rights Bill, 400-401 , 404; not like other political 
leaders, 402 ; last sufferings and sorrows, death, 403-404. 

Sumner, Charles Pinckney, 12-18,28, 89. 

Sumner, George, no, 111, 130. 

Sumner, Job, 9, 10, 11. 

Sumner, Mary, 109, 

Sumner, Relief, 12, 13. 

Sumner, William, 9. 

Supplementary Civil Rights Bill, 400, 401, 404. 

Talfourd, Sergeant, 71, 

Taylor, Zachary, 180, 193, 194, 196, 198. 

Thayer, Eli, 296. 

Thibaut, Professor, 91, 92. 

Ticknor, George, 70, 129. 

Times, London, 341, 342. 

Times > New York, 281. 

Toombs, Robert, 281, 314, 389. 

" Trent " Case, The, 339. 

Trumbull, Lyman, 369, 379. 

Union, The, 231. 



Van Buren, Martin, 197, 198. 
Vaughn, Justice John, 70. 
Vesey's Reports, 107, 108. 

Wade, Benjamin, 226, 379, 382. 
Walker, Amasa, 296. 
Walker, I. P., 249, 250, 256, 257. 
Walker, Robert J., 268. 
Washington, George, 175, 351. 
Waterston, Mrs., 34. 
Wattles, Augustus, 318. 
Wayland, Francis, 289. 

Webster, Daniel, 25, 43, 44, 45, 46, 124, 125, 126, 127, 129, 130.. 

131, 158, 177, 178, 189, 192, 193, 198, 199, 202, 204, 205, 208, 

209, 212, 214, 216, 223, 226, 244. 
Weed, Thurlow, 268, 321. 
Weld, Theodore D., 217, 310. 
Weller, J. B., 250, 252, 257, 258. 
Wheaton, Henry, 121. 
Whipple, Edwin P., 296. 
Whittier, John G., 212. 
Wigfall, L. T., 314. 
Wilde, Sergeant, 71. 
Wilkes, Captain, 339. 

Wilson, Henry, 135, 194, 195, 202, 210, 265, 266, 277, 282, 286. 

287, 290, 291, 310, 315, 317, 346, 354, 356. 
Winthrop, Robert C, 70, 139, 141, 177, 178, 179, 181, 182, 183 

184, 185, 188, 190, 205, 209, 297. 
Wordsworth, William, 71. 
Wortly, James A., 92. 
Wright, Elizur, 310. 

Yancey, William L., 321. 
Young, Brigham, 313.